The DECISIVE project for the training of citizens and officers of the Municipalities of Cyprus, which was funded under the “Europe for Citizens” programme came to an end. For the last 12 months, the Union of Municipalities and Communities of Flanders from Belgium (VVSG), the Local Union of Municipalities and Communities of Chios Prefecture from Greece (TEDK Chios) and the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, tried to see whether they could apply in Cyprus and Greece the methodology which is followed by many municipalities in Flanders, when they are involved in twinnings.
In these municipalities, the citizens themselves prepare and run twinning projects on a voluntary basis. This method not only relieves the municipalities from a significant administrative burden, but also enhances the sense of ownership of citizens over the twinning projects.
As it turned out, the interest of the Cypriot Citizens, in particular those belonging to organized groups of citizens, is significant. The seminars held in the framework of the project have also shown what more or less we already knew: That the drafting of applications for funding twinning activities has been simplified to such an extent by the managing authority that the participation of citizens in the process is fully facilitated.
For the municipalities of Cyprus, it proved that their -so far- small participation in twinning projects was not due to lack of interest, but due to lack of knowledge and resources. Regarding the participation of citizens in the application process, it proved that the municipalities are very positive in cooperation -especially with organized groups- when it concerns exchange of ideas or partner selection, but they need more guidance and better information before completely trusting the running of a project to citizens. This of course does not apply to all municipalities. As it was demonstrated, some Cypriot municipalities have already been working very closely with citizens on twinning issues well before the DECISIVE project and some others proved to be very positive in the proposed DECISIVE methodology and have already begun discussions with organized groups of citizens.
The benefits of the DECISIVE project are multiple for everybody involved in it:
Citizens: It is clear that citizens and organized groups involved in the project, understood (in those municipalities that it had not been understood until now), that they have the opportunity to work with municipalities and actively participate in twinning activities.
Elected: The DECISIVE project helped a lot of elected representatives to understand that twinnings can be really useful for municipalities and that they are not just synonyms with cultural exchanges or opportunities for ceremonial trips.
Municipalities: When the DECISIVE project began, a lot of Cypriot municipalities did not even have one officer to deal with twinnings or other European activities. Even the officers of the municipalities that were more organized, did not know each other and many were not cooperating or even communicating with the twinning officer of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities. Now, most of the municipalities have appointed at least one officer, who deals with twinning issues.
Union of Cyprus Municipalities: Despite continued efforts in recent years, the Union of Cyprus Municipalities had neither managed to have a full and detailed picture of the state of Twinnings in Cyprus, nor had the means and resources to effectively mobilize the municipalities, in such a way that they could take full advantage of opportunities and possibilities provided by the Europe for Citizens programme.
Now, thanks to the DECISIVE project, a network of municipal officers involved in twinnings has been created. These officers have already met each other and have begun to cooperate and exchange ideas and opinions. The Union of Cyprus Municipalities is now aware of the European actions of its member municipalities.
Very important is also the fact that the Union of Cyprus Municipalities managed through the DECISIVE project, to get to know better the needs of its members, regarding European pr