Responsible public administration as the basis of a well-functioning state: Two-day conference in Tirana

A two-day conference on public administration reform (PAR), institutional integrity, accountability, and public trust in institutions was held in Tirana on the 7th and 8th of June, bringing together government officials and civil society from across the Western Balkans.

The conference titled “Pursuing integrity-driven and sustainable public administration reforms in the Western Balkans” was organised by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM, Tirana).

The conference was opened by Oriana Arapi, General Director, Prime Ministry of Albania, Florian Hauser, DG Near, European Commission, Gregor Virant, Head of Program, SIGMA – OECD, and Keida Meta from the Department of Public Administration.

“Governments need to have good people who work in civil service, and they need to make sure that the career of the civil servant is attractive to people,” said Florian Hauser. “If we don’t deliver, if we don’t provide services to citizens and businesses, then we are not relevant anymore. Better public administration works – the country will be more successful”, he added.

Keida Meta highlighted that the digitalisation of services was the top priority of the Albanian government and that they achieved good things here.

Members of civil society reminded the government that without the meaningful participation of civil society (in monitoring, coordination, etc.) there is no good public administration.

The participants then talked about the danger of public administration reform being associated with EU integration and agreed that it is dangerous because that means that reforms happen only because of the EU, but the reforms should be domestically driven and why the sectoral mainstreaming of PAR is of utmost importance.

The second day of the conference was opened by Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, IDM, Albania, Adea Pirdeni, Deputy Minister of Justice, Albania, Matilda Shabani, General Director, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Albania and Petra Burcher, DCM, Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden, Albania.

Participants then shared experiences from the implementation of the Integrity Risk Assessment methodology in the central public institutions of Albania, why it is necessary to have a code of ethics in public institutions and why we have to pay attention to administrative leadership, not only to political leadership. Also, representatives from the region talked about their own perspectives on integrity-building experiences in the public administrations of the Western Balkans.

Adea Pirdeni said how the government, by enabling the digitalisation of public services, managed to eliminate corruption on the counters, while Petra Burcher highlighted that integrity builds trust and trust is the core of a well-functioning state.

“Integrity as a concept is not only the integrity of institutions. One of the main reasons for bad implementation is connected to a lack of individual integrity. If we put efforts into this part of integrity, there is more chance to improve institutional integrity”, said Emsad Dizdarević from Transparency International.

The conference is organised within the project of the Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration – WeBER 2.0 regional project and the Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project. The WeBER 2.0 project is implemented by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and is funded by the European Union and other donors. Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project is implemented by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation and is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Watch the event online on the Think for Europe Facebook page.

OPEN LETTER to the Members of the European Parliament regarding the Draft Resolution on the 2021 Commission Report on North Macedonia

The European Policy Institute together with Civil Rights Defenders and the members of the Think For Europe NetworkTEN sent an open letter to the Members of the European Parliament regarding the Draft Resolution on the 2021 Commission Report on North Macedonia.

We urge them to reconsider parts of the Motion for a resolution that are conditions set by Bulgaria that will have negative implications on the Macedonian identity and will endorse the ultimatum that Bulgaria imposed on North Macedonia, using the EU membership as a tool.

If the bilateral issues imposed by Bulgaria enter the accession process, its essence of being a transformative power for the society and the Europeanization process would not only be jeopardised, but would run contrary to the values of the Union.

These are not the values we have believed in. These are not the values we have fought for at home, consistently advocating for EU-accession related reforms.

Read the full letter here.

Open-Letter-EP-Resolution-MKD-2022

Pursuing integrity-driven and sustainable administrative reforms in the Western Balkans

The Institute for Democracy and Mediation organises the PAR regional meeting in the framework of the Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration – WeBER 2.0 regional project and the Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project. The event will be dedicated to the public administration reform (PAR), institutional integrity, accountability and public trust in institutions.  

Following the ameliorated COVID-19 pandemic situation, the regional meeting will be organised as a two-day in person event, holding several activities. Participants will arrive in Tirana on 6 June 2022. The PAR regional conference will take place during 7 – 8 June 2022 and will be held in English, with Albanian simultaneous translation. It will discuss the need for mainstreaming of PAR principles across sectoral policies and best practices of integrity building in the public administration of Albania and the region. On the other hand, the PAR sectoral mainstreaming workshop will focus on the preliminary results of pilot monitoring exercise on mainstreaming principles of public administration, its challenges so far and how to overcome them.

The event aims to foster the dialogue between civil society and institutional stakeholders to design and implement inclusive and transparent policies, as well as contribute to the sustainability of citizen-centred administrative reforms.

This is the first time since the pandemic outbreak, that the WeBER platform members from all the Western Balkans meet in person to discuss public administration reforms monitoring in regional level. Our community gathers various civil society organisations, governments’ representatives, international and regional organisations, as well as distinguished independent experts, who will share with us the latest updates on governance and research on PAR issues in regional level.

The WeBER 2.0 project is implemented by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and is funded by the European Union and other donors. Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project is implemented by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation and is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Download the Draft Agenda here.

If you wish to follow the Conference online, please contact us at secretariat@thinkforeurope.org. Given the fact that the number of participants is limited, all registrations will be reviewed and confirmed by the WeBER2.0 team members.

ONLINE EVENT: Democracy or ‘stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans?

This online public forum is co-organised with the Clingendael.

The EU seeks to foster democratisation through its enlargement policy, in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, also known as the Western Balkans Six. 

Despite years of efforts, the EU’s policies have not brought about the expected change. Instead of experiencing decisive democratic reform, the WB6 show signs – to different degrees – of ‘stabilitocracies’: countries with obvious democratic shortcomings that at the same time claim to work towards democratic reform and to offer stability. 

Join our online forum with law makers, policy makers and researchers from both the EU and the Western Balkans. The topics at stake include how the EU is unintentionally contributing to the formation of ‘stabilitocracies’ and what can be done to avoid it.

We will pose several thesis statements to the speakers. The speakers will debate a thesis during a limited amount of time. You can participate through the poll and by asking your question through the online Q&A.

Programme

Welcome & introduction of the report The EU as a promoter of democracy or ‘stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans?

Giulia Cretti, Junior Researcher, the Clingendael Institute

Debate & poll questions

Maja Kocijančič, Member of Cabinet & Communication Advisor to the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, European Commission
Milena Lazarević, Programme Director, European Policy Centre – CEP, Belgrade
Nikola Dimitrov, Former Foreign and Deputy Prime Minister for European Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, ECFR and BIEPAG member
Roelien Kamminga, Member of Parliament VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), The Netherlands
Geert Luteijn, Lecturer Political Science, University of Amsterdam
Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Member of European Parliament (The Greens/European Free Alliance – EFA)
Wouter Zweers, (moderator) Research Fellow, the Clingendael Institute

Q&A session

Register

Please register here. The event will be held via Zoom. After registering you will receive an email with a personal link to the webinar room.

The EU as a promoter of democracy or ‘stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans?

Through its enlargement policy, the EU seeks to foster democratisation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, also called Western Balkans six (WB6). Despite years of efforts, the EU’s policies have not brought about the expected change.

The enlargement process has lost both efficacy and political momentum. Instead of experiencing decisive democratic reform, the WB6 have slowly developed into ‘stabilitocracies’: countries with obvious democratic shortcomings that at the same time claim to work towards democratic reform and offer stability.

The report, conducted by the Clingendael and the Think for Europe Network, identifies eight flaws in the EU’s strategies, policies and their implementation that are believed to contribute to stabilitocracy formation.

In each of the WB6 countries, concrete cases exemplify how EU influence has unintentionally contributed to stabilitocracy formation and what factors have determined whether the EU approach has been constructive or not. The technical approach is the most prevalent flaw in the case studies. Examples range from the EU’s inability to harmonise the interests of different ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, structural weaknesses in the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), the failure of technical safeguards to counter blurred boundaries between branches of power in Montenegro, an overly technical focus in progress reports on democracy and rule of law reforms in North-Macedonia, and an overly technical fixation in the application of the revised methodology in Serbia.

To avoid the traps of further stabilitocracy entrenchment, we put forward recommendations and critical reflections on how to improve the EU’s role in the region. Recommendations include focusing more on genuine feedback to WB6 governments, better reporting on the state of progress, enhancing communication with citizens, and specifying benchmarks while accompanying them with more tangible timelines.

However, fixing the technical process is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the EU accession process and its democratisation agenda for the Western Balkans. Therefore, the EU and its member states need to seriously consider proposals for a further overhaul of the enlargement process in order to allow for a staged accession trajectory for the WB6. At the same time, the EU could speed up engagement with the WB6 beyond the enlargement framework in order to not lose grip in a region subject to increasing great-power competition. Lastly, it is recommended that the Netherlands takes further action to substantiate its ambitions as a critical but engaged member state.

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Read the full report (HTML) or download the report (PDF).

Save the date for an online forum on Thursday 10 March, 15.30-16.45 hrs. Lawmakers, policymakers and researchers will debate on the EU’s unintentionally contribution to the formation of ‘stabilitocracies’ and the next steps. You can participate through the Q&A and poll questions.

Confirmed speakers are Milena Lazarević (Programme Director, European Policy Centre – Belgrade), Nikola Dimitrov (Former Foreign and Deputy Prime Minister for European Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia) and Geert Luteijn (Lecturer Political Science, University of Amsterdam). The full programme will be announced soon. Please register to save the date!

Discussion about 2021 Enlargement Package with Maciej Popowski

24 November 2021 – Today, the European Policy Centre (CEP), together with other members of Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) organised an online discussion about the European Commission’s 2021 Enlargement Package. The event titled: EU Enlargement to the Western Balkans in the Light of the New Methodology gathered acting Director-General, Maciej Popowski, who presented this year’s reports, and CSOs representatives from six Western Balkans countries who discussed and commented on reports for each state. The panel was moderated by Milena Lazarević, CEP’s Programme Director. Panellists discussed how does the Enlargement Package support the building of a stronger Europe, what are the incentives offered to the Western Balkans through this Package, and does the current toolkit possess enough tools to deal with regional’s sensitive, yet complex issues while addressing the Fundamentals.

Mr. Popowski called, in his presentation, this year’s package “the mother of all packages” which comes after the visit of President Commission Ursula von der Leyen to Western Balkans in September and the Brdo Summit in October. He emphasised the necessity to maintain dynamics of the enlargement process despite the odds while underlining recommendations of the Commission to open two new Clusters with Serbia, finally start negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and secure visa liberalisation for Kosovo. Popowski stated that bilateral issues between Bulgaria and North Macedonia cast a big shadow on the enlargement and that there is very little time to find an agreement between the two countries to Bulgaria remove its veto. At the same time, Commission has sent its representatives to Bosnia and Herzegovina to find a way for overcoming institutional stalemate in this country. On the question about scepticism in some member states when it comes to further enlargement of the EU, Popowski pointed out that there has always been scepticism, but that we must avoid further disillusionment among citizens in candidate states. Asked about the model of staged accession, Popowski stated that he is entirely familiar with it, but he compared it with ideas from the 1990s about the EU in concentric circles. Finally, he sees the Open Balkan initiative as a part of a broader concept of regional cooperation and as a stepping stone towards the accession of the WB region to the EU, not as a substitute.

On the other hand, representatives of civil society and members of TEN (Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of Governing Board, European Policy Centre (CEP), Belgrade, Haris Ćutahija, Researcher, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI BH), Sarajevo, Marko Sošić, Policy Analyst, Institute Alternative (IA), Podgorica, Arbëresha Loxha Stublla, Executive Director and Senior Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), Pristina, Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Tirana, Ardita Abazi Imeri, Programme Coordinator, European Policy Institute (EPI), Skopje) criticised the politically correct wording of the report, stating that it was much softer than in previous years. Critics have been directed towards new enlargement methodology as well, stating that the ticking the box approach was not overcome and that introduced reforms are only structural, rather than substantial. They also called for elephant in the room to be said out loud clearly which is a lack of political will on both sides. Lastly, CSO representatives from six WB countries called the Commission for more evidence-based reports in the future and for transparently providing sources in upcoming reports. They expressed hope for more positive reports next year.


EU enlargement to the Western Balkans in the light of the new methodology: Discussion about 2021 Enlargement Package

ONLINE EVENT


On October 19, the European Commission adopted its 2021 Enlargement Package, offering a comprehensive assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans on their individual paths towards the European Union, with a focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead. With the introduction of the new methodology which uses a merit-based approach, the focus of this Package is addressing fundamentals – rule of law, independence of the judiciary, media freedom, and the fight against organised crime and corruption – all while making sure that the EU itself delivers on its commitments.

The Commission acknowledged the region’s frontrunners, Montenegro, and Serbia, by noting that they have made some progress in this area while acknowledging efforts of North Macedonia and Albania have made to fulfil conditions for opening negotiations. Apart from the ongoing Bulgarian veto, the stalled process of normalisation of relations in the region is the other sore point highlighted in the reports.

This draws the following questions: How does the 2021 Enlargement Package support the building of a stronger Europe? What are the incentives offered to the Western Balkans through this Package? Does the current toolkit possess enough tools to deal with regional’s sensitive, yet complex issues while addressing the Fundamentals?


As this issue remains highly relevant everyday life of citizens, all while being very detailed and complex, the aim of the event is to gather relevant experts who could untangle what has been done so far in these areas and what remains to be done to make sure that the 2021 Enlargement Package is implemented effectively and efficiently. To get multi-layered answers to the problem, the panellists from think tanks from the countries of Western Balkan will give their inputs at this event organised jointly by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

The 2021 Enlargement Package will be presented by Maciej Popowski, Acting Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, followed by 5-minute reactions from:

Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of Governing Board, European Policy Centre (CEP), Belgrade
– Haris Ćutahija, Researcher, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI BH), Sarajevo
– Marko Sošić, Policy Analyst, Institute Alternative (IA), Podgorica
– Arbëresha Loxha Stublla, Executive Director and Senior Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), Pristina
– Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Tirana
– Ardita Abazi Imeri, Programme Coordinator, European Policy Institute (EPI), Skopje

Moderator: Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director

After that, an open discussion with the audience will be held.


The event will take place online, and it will be in English. You can register for the event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ND11k8yaQw657Z85jwIl-w

Participants will be able to ask questions either by raising a virtual hand, after which they will be turned on with a camera and microphone, or by leaving comments or using the Q&A option, and after reactions, the moderator will read these questions.


European Youth: Addressing digital challenges

This study represents a compilation of eight policy briefs created within the project “Let’s build the future together: the EU and the Western Balkans from the youth perspective”.

Policy briefs are titled:

– Youth in Albania and the Online World: at the Crossroads of Freedom and Safety
– Digital content: Why regulate? A view from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Youth
– Between regulations and freedom of speech: Kosovo’s youth acknowledge the importance of regulations and sanctions in digital space
– Freedom of Expression on Social Media in Montenegro
– Can You Hear Us from the Screen? The Youth from North Macedonian for Safe Internet Space
– Regulating Interned in a Youth-friendly manner a Standpoint from Serbia
– Internet, Freedom of Expression and Democracy in Europe – a Look from Italy
– Internet, Freedom of Expression and Democracy in Europe – the Polish Perspective

For more information, please visit: www.mladirini.org.

Download the study here.

European-Youth

The EU as a promoter of democracy or ‘stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans?

Starting from August 2021, the Think for Europe Network (TEN) commenced its work on the research project “the EU as a promoter of democracy or ‘stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans?”. This project is implemented in partnership with the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’.

Through its enlargement policies the EU tries to foster democratisation in the Western Balkan region. Now that further reforms in a number of countries only progress slowly or seem even deadlocked, more and more attention is being paid to the negative side-effects of EU policies. The literature on EU enlargement notes that, in spite of their democratic objectives, EU strategies and policies unintentionally contribute to the formation of so-called stabilitocracies in the region: countries with obvious democratic shortcomings that at the same time claim to provide pro-EU stability. 

The research project focuses on the six countries of the Western Balkans. For each country, it assesses how flaws in the EU’s enlargement policies as identified in the literature play out in practice by offering a reflection on the applicability of the theoretical framework for the specific country, underpinned by an assessment of a number of case studies. 

The project will be carried out throughout 2021 and will culminate in a Clingendael report in English with six contributions from TEN partners, one for each country of the Western Balkan Six. 

This project is financed by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. 


Period: August 2021 – October 2021
Donator: Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence
Project Coordinator: European Policy Centre – CEP, Belgrade
Contact persons: Strahinja Subotić, Programme Manager and Senior Researcher (strahinja.subotic@cep.org.rs)

Overcoming the enlargement impasse – some ideas for the Slovenian presidency

The Slovenian presidency of the EU starting on 1 July has placed the state of the enlargement process for the Western Balkans high on its list of priorities. But the process is dangerously in a state of impasse, leaving the states of the Western Balkans and EU alike disappointed and dissatisfied. Fresh ideas are needed. Therefore the Think for Europe Network (TEN) network of leading think tanks of the Western Balkans joins with the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Brussels, to advocate a new dynamic of phased membership in the EU, with ideas for progressive functional and institutional integration based on an objective and quantified monitoring methodology.   

Download the paper here.

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