Conference "The Road to EU Integration-Removing Barriers, Unlocking Our Potential"

 Time: 25 September 2013 (13:00-18:00) 
 Venue: Croatian Cultural Dome in Sushak, Rijeka
 Participation: by invitation only

Sometimes the road to a destination is straight and direct, but sometimes it is more winding, to avoid natural and man-made obstacles. Sometimes the road’s surface is smooth, making it easy for all kinds of vehicles to travel along; but sometimes it is unpaved, or full of potholes due to lack of investment and maintenance. Sometimes, there are barriers across the road, staffed by customs officers or military personnel.

These have to be passed through.

And sometimes, the road may be open and clear but our own vehicle is broken down and unable to make the journey. Our first step – in such a case – is to repair our vehicle, to unlock our own potential to make the journey.

The overall title for NEXPO 2013 is “Paving the Road to EU Integration”, which looks at how we can most easily and swiftly make progress towards the goal of enhanced integration with and within the EU. This assumes there is a road and a roadworthy vehicle, with some improvements needed to get there fast! But for our Conference on 25 September, which launches the NEXPO, we have added the subtitle “Removing barriers, unlocking our potential”.

This is because, as we look closer, there remain real barriers on our road, and we need in particular to ensure that our own “vehicle” (our local governments) are roadworthy and “fit for purpose”. The European Union has been going through a difficult time since the financial crisis broke in 2013, especially from an economic perspective, but despite this it remains an attractive long-term “destination” (in terms of economy and geopolitical security) for most neighbouring states, whether through full membership (or at least initially) through much closer economic and other linkages.


Conference Speakers:

  • Mr. Ivo Josipovic, President of Croatia
  • Mr. Vojko Obersnel, Mayor of Rijeka and President of the Association of Cities of Croatia
  • Mr. Oldřich Vlasák, Vice-President, European Parliament
  • Mr. Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council
  • Mr. Gerhard Schumann-Hitzler, Director of IPA Strategy, Directorate General for Enlargement, European Commission
  • HE Denis Knobel, Ambassador of Switzerland in the Republic of Croatia
  • Mr. Emil Draghici, Mayor of Vulcana-Bai, President of the Association of Communes of Romania
  • Ms. Brigitte Heuel-Rolf, GIZ Regional Director
  • Mr. Luc Van den Brande, Member and former President, Committee of the Regions
  • Mr. Anton Persak, Mayor of Trzin, Slovenia, President of NALAS
  • Mr. Vladimir Moskov, Mayor of Goce Delcev, Bulgaria and former President of NALAS
  • Mr. Stevco Jakimovski, Mayor of Karposh, Skopje, Macedonia


Framework of the Conference – Removing barriers, unlocking our potential

The Conference will open with a speech from the President of the Republic of Croatia. Following this, speakers will assess the current state of progress , and analyse the strengths, weaknesses and potential of the central and local governments of the SEE region in relation to the EU integration process.

This will be done in three sessions – looking at the theme from the perspectives of (a) the European Union, (b) our South East Europe regional institutions, and (c) of our local governments. The local government perspective will in particular be expressed in the Mayors’ Roundtable discussion.

What are the goals of the Conference?

  • To mark Croatia’s membership of the EU, joining (from our region) Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia. This is an important achievement and landmark.
  • To gain insights into how the EU assesses the integration process with the South East Europe region
  • To learn about the positive (and some less positive) lessons from the experience of Croatia and the other current EU member states and their local governments
  • To promote a dialogue between Mayors from EU member countries, candidate countries and potential candidate countries on challenges and potentials of the local governments in the process
  • To take stock of the regional South East Europe perspective, and in particular to discuss the ‘vehicles’ for a speedier EU integration process for all countries of the region

Some key questions for the Conference speakers and participants

  • What are the prospects for a fuller or faster integration of the states and peoples of south-east Europe? Better or worse than, say, 5 years ago?
  • What are the main barriers to progress – political, economic, institutional, governance?
  • What can the EU do to help make better, faster progress, and remove these barriers?
  • What are the main lessons learnt by local governments in states that are now members of the EU, both in the accession process, and since joining the EU?
  • What do the governments and local governments of south-east Europe need to do to make better progress?

Specific questions for The Mayors’ Roundtable discussion

  • What are the main tasks and roles of local government in the accession and post-accession processes?
  • What added value do we offer, for our citizens, our governments and the EU?
  • What significant changes are required in our local government systems to meet EU standards and regulations - including governance, financial management, public services, procurement, responsiveness to citizens etc.?
  • How can we make use of EU funding streams in the integration and accession processes?
  • What can the experience of local governments in existing EU states show us?
  • What can we do to help pave the road to make a smooth journey to EU integration?

Profiles and Matchmaking tool

Click HERE to access the online matchmaking tool, where you will be able to create your municipality, company or development agency profile, that will be used for the NEXPO 2013 exhibitors catalogue.

At a later stage you will be using this tool to identify potential partners to schedule bilateral meetings with in one of the eight NEXPO matchmaking offices or at your exhibitor's booth.

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News Flash

NEXPO 2013

NEXPO 2013 was organized under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Croatia, His Excellency Ivo Josipovic.


NEXPO 2013 Declaration



NEXPO 2013 Newsletter

Learn more about what happened during NEXPO 2013


NEXPO 2013 Integrated Programme Publication



“The important thing is that with NEXPO 2011 we put a landmark of friendship and cooperation between all municipalities in theregion”

Vladimir Moskov,
President of NALAS  during NEXPO 2011

“I personally think and hope that this event contributed to Europe’s true understanding of the situation on the Balkans when the local level is in question”

Vesna Travljanin,
Executive Director,

“The Hague Academy was impressed with the organisation and was honoured to meet different representatives of local governance in South Eastern Europe. We are delighted that new connections were made, and look forward to fruitful cooperation in the future.”

The Hague Academy for Local Governance

“One of the things I learned from the NEXPO conferences was on the issue of energy efficiency and local governance. Municipalities are committing themselves to become energy efficient...I have seen that there are different ways in which a municipality can be active in energy efficiency issues using local resources.”

Aurelia Ciornei,
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

„It is very important to communicate, to find the joint interests and to find the joint opportunities so we can become that real modern and efficient service to our citizens”

Mayor of Cazin,
Mr. Ogreševic
for an interview for Sarajevo television

“In an atmosphere full of humanity and enthusiasm... 21 new cities of the area committed themselves and 10 associations of local authorities became Supporters of the Covenant of Mayors.”

Floriane Bernardot,
Energy Cities

“I have learned that we can apply in Burkina [Faso] a similar approaches NALAS in the organization of such an event. It was important for me to come, to share and talk about issues like e-governance, where I learned was that it is important to build capacities of authorities at local levels before we ask the national level to support them. Additionally, before we transform our local governments into e-governments, there is a need for working first on issues like education, internet access and also access to electricity.”

Nathalie Nikiema,
SDC Burkina Faso

“Municipality of Bratunac is famous as the most important place of raspberry production in Bosnia and Herzegovina and through this fair we aim to promote the production of the raspberries, but also the agricultural production in general in our municipality.”

Mr. Vjekoslav Stevanovic,
Municipality of Bratunac, BiH




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Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South East Europe. Enquiries: Partizanski Odredi 42/7, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia. Tel: +389 (0)2 3090818.