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Brussels, 06 October 2009


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Local and regional authorities are the best placed to ensure stability in
Europe, according to the conclusions of a seminar organised by
European People's Party Group in the Committee of the Regions
(EPP/CoR) today. The seminar; "City Diplomacy: A Tool for Building
Measures of Confidence" was chaired by Isidoro Gottardo, President of
the EPP/CoR, and marks the third year that the EPP have been actively
involved the Open Days: European Week of Regions and Cities.

As outlined by Eleni Loucaides, Municipal Councillor of Nicosia and rapporteur
of the CoR opinion on City Diplomacy, "we live in a time of unpredictable
changes and ever more frequent conflicts which do not afford us the luxury of
isolation and unilateralism. Ours is a period in which the cooperation of national
governments, international organizations, local and regional organizations, and
NGOs is no longer a desired route but a necessity."

Dubravka Suica, Member of the City Assembly of Dubrovnik and 1
President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress of the Council of
Europe agreed that diplomacy on a local level can strengthen relations between
countries and added that "the secret of the triumph of the Dubrovnik Republic
was the recognition that the key to prosperity lies in the balance between the
independence and alliances." She added that in a time of globalization, Europe
needs to look for coherence, which will be easier with the cooperation of local
and regional authorities due to their ability to establish practical ties of
cooperation with counterparts in other regions.

Another country which has worked at the city level to enhance cooperation and
reduce conflict is Cyprus. Mustafa Akinci, former Leader of the Turkish Cypriot
community of Nicosia, and Lellos Demetriades, former Leader of the Greek
Cypriot community of Nicosia both remember the military coup and the
subsequent war which took place in Cyprus in 1974 and how this created a
completely divided island. Ironically Mustafa Akinci believes this also created
the conditions for cooperation between the two local authorities of Nicosia and
both men expressed the need to work together to grant even basic rights such
as sanitation to the communities they represented.

David Robinson, Good relations officer, Belfast City Council, Northern
Ireland spoke about how the good relations programme has helped to create a
more stable environment in which people can live together peacefully in a
climate of democracy, progress and prosperity. However, he added that there
are still many challenges that need to be faced.

Kyriacos Charalambous, Desk Officer responsible for PEACE programme and
International Fund for Ireland within the Directorate General for Regional Policy
of the European Commission also underlined the importance of city diplomacy in
the case of Northern Ireland. He explained that the role of the European
Commission is to provide money to projects on the ground rather than as a
political vehicle. This is because it is important that people have a sense of
ownership. He concluded by saying "the testimonies that we have heard today,
as well as the experience in Northern Ireland, confirm the underlining theme in
the CoR opinion about the important role that local authorities can play and do
play in the field of City Diplomacy: building measures of confidence."