The Association of Rhodope Municipalities (ARM) was established in 1992. It is a non-profit organization consisting of 21 member municipalities, located in 4 administrative districts of Bulgaria:
- Smolyan district: municipality of Smolyan, Banite, Borino, Chepelare, Devin, Dospat, Madan, Nedelino, Rudozem, and Zlatograd
- Kardzhali district: municipality of Kardzhali, Kirkovo and Momchilgrad
- Plovdiv district: municipality of Assenovgrad, Laky and Rodopi
- Pazardzhik district: municipality of Batak, Bratsigovo, Rakitovo, Septemvri and Velingrad
ARM actively contributes towards improving the local self-governance, increasing efficiency and transparency of the municipalities and creating opportunities for wider citizens’ participation in the process of self-governance. Moreover, ARM contributes towards strengthening the cooperation with partners from EU countries.
ARM has a good experience in working with municipal servants, municipal councillors, and regional governors as well as representatives of the Bulgarian ministries, members of parliament, and heads of state bodies. The Association organizes and delivers trainings for municipal servants, municipal councillors and civil servants of 21 ARM- member municipalities. Over the last 10 years our Association has organized and carried out more than 150 workshops and trainings to help 3000 municipal servants and councillors gain new knowledge and skills. Most of the events were part of projects, funded by USAID.
Priority workshops subjects included: “Preparation of the Municipalities for Successful Absorption of the EU Structural Funds’, ‘Provision of Services to the Citizens’; ‘Human Resources Management’; ‘Public and Private Partnership’; Local Governance and Decentralization’; ‘European Challenges to the Bulgarian Municipalities’; ‘Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Municipal Council’; ‘Planning Urban Green Systems and Construction of Ecological Infrastructure in the Small Municipalities’, ‘Local Economic Development’, etc.
ARM hosted workshops and events that have been attended by Presidents of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Environment and Waters, representatives of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, members of the European and national parliaments, etc.
ARM has a good experience in developing and publishing information materials. Within the projects, funded by USAID, ARM published more than 110 issues of a monthly newsletter, distributed among its member-municipalities on the one hand, and among other Bulgarian municipalities, ministries, embassies, regional governors, members of Parliament, non-government organizations – on the other hand.
ARM published also Guides and Handbooks, funded by Phare CBC (Bulgaria-Greece) Program, entitled:
- ‘Tourist Brochure ‘Smolyan-Xanthi’ (Bulgaria-Greece);
- ‘From the Rhodopes to the Aegean Sea’ (Bulgaria-Greece)
- ‘Business Handbook ‘Let’s Do Business Together’ (Bulgaria-Greece);
- ‘Joint Business Guide (Bulgaria-Greece)
ARM is currently implementing the project ‘Evros-Smolyan Road of Culture’, which aims to promote cultural assets of Smolyan and Evros and to enhance the skills of professionals working in the cultural tourism sector. The project is co-funded by the European Territorial Cooperation Programme Greece-Bulgaria (2007-2013) through ERDF and national funds of Greece and Bulgaria.
The Association is working also on the project ‘Design Thinking in Tourism’, which aims to elaborate Strategy for Tourism and Hotel Business Development in the Rhodope Region. Within the project ARM is collaborating with Know and How Association (Bulgaria) and CIBER ESPACIO SL (Spain). The project is supported by the Operational Programme ‘Human Resources Development’, co-funded by the ESF.
ARM’s affiliated municipalities created good relations with municipalities of neighbouring Greece. Protocols for town-twinning has been signed by the municipality of:
- Smolyan (BG) & Xanthi (GR)
- Zlatograd (BG) & Chrissoupoli/ Nestos (GR)
- Kardzhali (BG) & Phillippoi (GR)
- Kardzhali (BG) & Komotini (GR)
- Madan & Keramoti/Nestos (GR)
- Nedelino (BG) & Miki (GR)
- Banite (BG) & Doxato (GR)
- Kirkovo (BG) & Maronya (GR)
- Velingrad (BG) & Apolonya (GR)
- Kardzhali (BG) & Komotini (GR)
- Momchilovtsi (BG) & Avdera (GR)
Also, ARM’s members are collaborating with towns and municipalities in Croatia, China, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Turkey, UK, USA, etc. Since 2000, ARM is a member of the Association of European Border Regions.