21st anniversary of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities CONFERENCE “THE ROLE OF THE ASSOCIATION IN TWO DECADES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN KOSOVO”

By: Genc Namani

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The Association of Kosovo Municipalities (AKM) in a Conference today marked the 21st anniversary of its establishment and operation. On this anniversary, the Conference “Role of the Association in two decades of local governance in Kosovo” was held.

In addition to the Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Speakers of Municipal Assemblies and other representatives from the local level and local government partners, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo Mr. Albin Kurti, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Ms. Donika Gërvalla and the Minister of Local Government Administration Mr. Elbert Krasniqi were present in this Conference.

The President of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities Mr. Agim Aliu said in his speech that “today is a special day, to be together here, in memory of over two decades of work, of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities, the shelter of the representation of the interest of all municipalities, the institution that is based on the principles of local governance and the protection and representation of citizens’ interests.
On this occasion, allow me, dear attendees, to welcome you to this special event.

21 years ago, a few months after the first post-war local elections in free Kosovo, Mayors of Municipalities gathered and formed the Association of Municipalities of Kosovo, an organization that protects and represents their interests.

The then Mayors of the Municipalities agreed to establish an organization, which they named the Association of Kosovo Municipalities, so they agreed to establish this organization, which is called in the full meaning of the word: HOUSE OF MUNICIPALITIES which organization for two decades now would serve to represent and protect the interests of municipalities and local government.

21 years of work and commitment, the Association of Kosovo Municipalities played an important role for municipalities and local government in our country. AKM played a significant role in the development and building of local democracy through lobbying/advocacy and capacity building at the local level.
For these two decades, we have had and still have challenges and obstacles to align, as much as possible, the demand and need of the citizens with the opportunities and capacities we have as a municipality.

In this regard, the biggest reforms in local government in Kosovo, those of 2007, have had a positive impact on local governance and the development of local democracy, also due to the fact that the Mayor of the Municipality from that time began to be directly elected by the citizens for a meaningful advancement of concrete democracy and accountability.

During this period of operation, the Association of Kosovo Municipalities has recorded successes in many areas related to local government.
The two areas where tangible results have been recorded are lobbying and raising the capacities of municipal officials, but without forgetting the various services for the municipalities up to the various projects that we have jointly developed for years.
On the other hand, one of the main advantages of AKM is the functional unity of this organization, which includes parties with different political beliefs and from different ethnicities.

Regardless of the configuration of political forces at the central level in terms of position and opposition, the union of these political forces in the Association with the aim of protecting and representing the interests of the municipalities has been and continues to be at a very good level.
As a result of this operational unity and the work done so far, AKM has turned into a legitimate dialogue partner organization for all issues affecting local government. We are an example in the region for this operational unity.

We in the Association work only for the interests of the local government. Our needs are constantly for more powers and more budget to serve our citizens as best as possible.
We have done the same thing for 21 years now and we will do it in the future. This is how we have acted, we have cooperated but also criticized, where it was necessary, to all previous Governments.
I want to reiterate that for these 21 years, but also in the future, we will commit to fully implement the principles of the European Charter for Local Self-Government in Kosovo.

We aim for our municipalities to resemble European municipalities not only in appearance but also in services. The digitization of life and the world pushes us towards the so-called “Smart Cities” especially through the projects of our youth that have witnessed advancements and high capacities in the field of technology.
AKM’s objective is to be a strong voice in the future in the protection and representation of the interests of the municipalities, based on these main points of proactive advocacy and lobbying, the effective raising of the municipalities’ capacities, as well as improvements in the provision of services from municipalities.
In the end, I want to thank all of you who are here and who cooperated these years to reach this day, with the aim that we will be together in the future for the interests of local government in our country.

A special thanks to our partners and donors, especially the Swiss Government, the Swedish Government, the German Government, but also USAID, UN-HABITAT, the Council of Europe, NALAS and many others who have helped and supported us in our journey over two decades for local government” – said, among other things, the Chairman of AKK, Mr. Agim Aliu.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo – Mr. Albin Kurti, congratulating the Association of Kosovo Municipalities on the 21st anniversary of its establishment, said that as the Prime Minister of the country, I thank each of you for your work and commitment and I tell you that the Government of Kosovo is at the service of the citizens therefore also in support of the Municipalities.

Undoubtedly, any progress as a state and as a society is a progress of the Municipalities, just as every general challenge is also of the Municipalities.
Today, this is an opportunity to take stock of progress and challenges, but it also serves as an opportunity to share the common vision and move forward.
21 years of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities is definitely enough time to take stock but also to learn how to do more and better.
Municipalities are intimately familiar with the needs of citizens. If these needs were well and correctly identified, we have done the right work in the all-round orientation as well.

Therefore, our cooperation is both necessary and useful.
I am convinced that what unites us all here is the interest of our citizens without distinction and the responsibility that each of us has towards their needs.
As a government, in parallel with the general reforms which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the development of the municipalities, we are also working in the direction of supporting the municipalities and increasing public services as well as raising their quality.
In the legal aspect, we have undertaken concrete actions in the drafting of acts for the municipal performance management system and the performance-based grant scheme, the amendment of the Law on Local Self-Government as well as other legal and by-law acts.

During these years, we have increased the funds dedicated to the performance of the municipalities as well as strengthened the administrative capacities for its management.
This year alone, we shared 78 million euros in funding with donors for this grant scheme where we awarded 14 municipalities for the best work and 25 municipal projects were financed – said the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr. Albin Kurti, among other things.

In the rest of the Conference, the Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora and the Association of Municipalities of Kosovo, which was signed by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Ms. Donika. Gërvalla and the President of the Association of Municipalities of Kosovo, Mr. Agim Aliu.