On January 20, EAR-AER organized its New Year’s reception and was once again delighted by VOKA’s hospitality. The static manor of VOKA (Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry) is located near the Royal Palace in Brussels and has all the assets to organize a reception during which the participants get the opportunity to get to talk to each other and know each other extensively. More than 50 participants had the pleasure to participate. After the welcome drink with bubbles, the participants went to the auditorium and assisted to high-quality speeches.

EAR-AER president Nelu Neacsu welcomed the attendees, introduced the speakers and moderated the evening session.

Former President of Romania, MEP Traian Basescu gave some reflections on the plans of the new European Commission led by Mrs. Ursula Von der Leyen. On the one hand, he was sceptical about Europe’s ambitious climate plans, warning of an economic massacre in countries with old industries and warning that European economies could not limit themselves to the service sector alone. On the other hand, he had reservations about the announced reduction in cohesion funds. He warned that the rural areas in his country in particular had not yet had the opportunity and the time to adapt to European reality and that they would be the first victims of this cutback. He saw cohesion funds much more needed than the climate efforts that the Commission advocated.

Tirana Deputy Mayor,  Mrs. Anuela Ristani announced that the Albanian capital will be celebrating its centenary in 2020 and that the city was right to call itself 100 years young. Although it has fallen victim to an earthquake of 6.4 on the Richter scale end of November 2019 and is still confronted with aftershocks on a daily basis, this natural disaster is also seen as an opportunity.  National and local authorities seize the reconstruction as an opportunity to give new impetus to city blocks where the chaos of the informal zones and outdated, decayed and damaged buildings from the Communist era must give way to completely new modern city areas. Ms. Ristani therefore gave a large number of examples of initiatives taken in recent years to build a liveable and pleasant city, with playgrounds for the children, strolling areas for the young population, new business parks to attract new economic sites, etc. The attendees agreed that this city, which in 100 years has grown from 2000 to 800,000 inhabitants, will become a dynamic symbol of a small country shaking off its grey and eventful past and wanting to play its role between EU, Turkey and Russia .

EAR-AER Board Member, Louis Delcart gave an overview of the achievements of the past year, but especially with the spirit in which EAR-AER wishes to work. Decentralization and regionalization are a hot topic in Europe. And not only because a number of regions does not agree with the policies of their national government and do not feel culturally recognized. Since 1992 the European Union works with the subsidiarity principle. The EU focused on local initiatives in its previous committee and in its current committee with the Cohesion Funds as crucial incentive. The EAR-AER envisages a role to help regions in their development by providing examples and trends within the regional approach. EAR-AER is convinced that regions must be given sufficient resources and powers by national governments, but that they themselves must also be responsible for all their creativity in finding solutions to revitalize their region without waiting for third-party initiatives.

EAR-AER Honorary Member and Former President of EESC, Henri Malosse therefore praised the achievements of the country and advised the participants to include it in their bucket list as soon as possible.

We were honored to welcome over 50 attendees among whom:  Her excellency Andreea Pastarnac, Ambassador of Romania to Belgium, Her excellency Suela Janina, Ambassador of Albania to Belgium and EU, His excellency Delavar Ajgeiy, Head of the Mission, Kurdinstan Regional Government Mission to the EU. We also welcomed officials from European External Action Service, European Commission, European Economic and Social Committee, officials from the Government of Flanders, representatives of the European business associations, Secretariat of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, DEIK (Turkish Business Diplomacy), representatives of VOKA, representatives of the regional offices in Brussels, as well business representatives from Albania, Belgium, Romania and Turkey.

We thank VOKA (Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry) for the venue at its Brussels’ Headquarter, the Government of Flanders for the financial support and Turkish DEIK for the logistic support.

We take this opportunity to inform you  that VOKA Flemish Brabant is organizing a seminar in collaboration with the European Academy of the Regions and the Confederation of Construction on the possibilities of the construction sector in Albania on 3 or 4 March 2020 in the Cultural Center of Meise, Belgium.  The Albanian government is very interested in the participation of Western European companies in the reconstruction and has committed to send relevant speakers from the Ministry for Reconstruction and the Ministry of Enterprises at the seminar.