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CSOs Demand Cancelation of Plans to Dissolve Belgrade Agency for European Integrations and Cooperation with Associations

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Civil society organizations and activists based in Belgrade called, in an open letter to the President of the Interim Office of the City of Belgrade of April 11, 2014, on the Interim Office and other relevant actors to put an end to plan to terminate and dissolve, or change the competences of the Agency for European Integrations and Cooperation with Civil Society of the City of Belgrade.

“The termination of that institution, created as a result of the efforts of a large number of CSOs aimed at providing institutional framework to the cooperation with the state and local administration, would send a clear message that the authorities give up on civil participation and cooperation with civil society, and of future support to development of civil sector in Belgrade”, states the open letter endorsed by 66 CSOs.

The signatories of the open letter note that, in the nine years of its existence, the Agency was a fine example of good practice of cooperation of the local administration with the civil society and that, with its support, civil associations from Belgrade established excellent and mutually beneficial cooperation with the City Hall.

“It proved especially beneficial to smaller associations that were the leading clients of Agency’s services – trainings and education and financial assistance allocated through open public competitions”, the open letter states.

The termination of the Agency would have negative effects on the involvement of CSOs in the process of European integrations and participation of stakeholders and interested public in the adoption of political decisions on local level.

“The improvement of the work and operations of the local self-government in that area is a long-term and demanding process. The termination, changed competences or merging of the Agency to other bodies or structures will slow down the process and the existing instruments for cooperation and consultations with the civil sector will regress”, say the Belgrade-based civic associations and activists.

They note that such an action would be paramount to a severe undermining of established practices and common action in the area of development of democratic society and rule of law in Serbia.

The associations add that the intent of the Interim Office is in collision with the recent assessment of Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and US Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby, who noted that Serbia needs to strengthen the institutions for support of economic progress and European integrations.

Civil society organizations and activists remind the Interim Office that it was established with the sole purpose to ensure the performance of ongoing and urgent activities within the scope of competencies of the Belgrade City Council and its administration, as defined in the law and the Statute of the City of Belgrade, until the constitution of the new City Council and appointment of new administration.

“The dissolution of the Agency can’t be understood, in any way or fashion, as an important and urgent business”, conclude the 66 organizations and activists that endorsed the open letter. (Source: Civic initaitives)

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