Policy dialogue “Public administration reform and EU enlargement – The Balkan civil society perspective” will be held on October 3rd in Brussels.
This event will assess the importance of civil society involvement in Public Administration Reform (PAR) in the Balkans, but also the importance of openness and transparency of the policy dialogue on PAR at all levels. In the Balkans, cooperation between CSOs across the region in the field of PAR is facilitated by WeBER Project.
While presenting some of WeBER’s key achievements so far, the event will seek to answer to the following questions, among others: How do national governments see civil society’s role in PAR? What is the European Commission’s position on PAR in the enlargement agenda and specifically on civil society involvement? In what ways has civil society been involved up to now, and what can be done to encourage and strengthen dialogue between CSOs, governments, regional organisations and EU institutions?
The pannelists will be: Damjan Mancevski, Minister of Information Society and Administration, Macedonia, Bernard Brunet, Head of Unit Thematic Support, Monitoring and Evaluation– DG NEAR, European Commission, Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director and WeBER Project Manager, Fisnik Korenica, Executive Director, GLPS Prishtina and Corina Stratulat, Senior Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre (Moderator).
Short presentations from the expert panel will be followed by an interactive discussion with the audience.
On June 26-30, representatives of each of the TEN member organisations, together with civil servants from each of the Western Balkan countries, participated in a study tour to Bratislava (Slovak Republic) and Prague (Czech Republic), as part of the project “Raising capacities and advocacy potential towards more substantive involvement of CSOs of V4 and WB6”. The project is implemented by TEN and supported by the Visegrad Fund.
Participants had the chance to visit both the civil society organisations and the state institutions in charge of horizontal policymaking in the Slovak Republic and Czech Republic. In Slovakia, the visit was hosted by the partner organisation Slovak Governance Institute, whose director and senior researcher Mr. Ctibor Košťál welcomed the participants and introduced them into the Slovak context and presented the successful work of the SGI in Slovakia. The government’s experience in cooperating with CSOs was presented by Ms. Jana Kviečinská from the Office of the Minister, Ministry of Justice; Ms. Viktória Mlynarčíková from the Head of Development Cooperation Unit, International Relations Section, Ministry of Finance and Mr. Milan Andrejkovič from the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government for the Development of Civil Society. The practice of the civil sector was presented by Mr. Ján Hargaš from Slovensko.digital, Mr. Martin Kollárik from the Slovak Governance Institute, Mr. Pavel Hrica from the Pontis Foundation and Mr. Matej Hruška from the Stop Corruption Foundation. The interactive discussions served for gaining insights and ideas for improving the quality of the policymaking systems both in WB6 countries and in the Slovak Republic.
In the Czech Republic, the participants were welcomed by Mr. Michal Vit from the partner organisation EUROPEUM, who provided the introduction into the Czech context and presented their previous initiatives, projects and cooperation with the Western Balkan think tanks. The focus of the visit was placed on a very successful case of the Reconstruction of the State initiative, which was presented by Mr. Vít Šimral and Mr. Lukáš Kraus. In addition, participants had the chance to learn about a local initiative for better urban planning from Mr. Michal Volf from the NGO Břevnov, whereas the government experience was shared by Ms. Radana Kubová, Office of Goverment, and Mr. Jan Outlý.
The study tour focused on learning from the V4 partners about their legal and institutional framework for CSO involvement in policymaking, its enforcement, practical problems and obstacles for CSOs to effectively participate in policymaking. Slovak and Czech NGOs and state institutions shared their best practices, whereas a special focus was dedicated to the effects of EU membership to the quality of policymaking in Slovakia and Czechia and CSOs’ contribution in this respect. The study tour represented a significant opportunity to exchange views and experiences both among the colleagues from the WB6 with the civil servants as well as among the TEN representatives. In particular, the participation of civil servants, representatives of respective policymaking institutions from the Western Balkans, was aimed to raise knowledge of these individuals on comparative policymaking systems and contribute to cooperation between the state and civil institutions.
“We see a great potential for TEN and we plan to strengthen it strategically and thematically. We are in the process of developing our strategic program and we believe that the Network could be of great value for regional cooperation and the region’s EU accession process.”
Can you tell us a little something about Think for Europe Network, its purpose, projects, members?
We started the network out of a real understanding that the countries of the region have a lot in common, both in terms of their strategic orientation towards EU membership and in terms of problems that we face in the accession process. We started off as three think tanks, not in order to apply for a specific project, but because we truly felt that we could strengthen our work and our impact by adding a strong regional dimension. Projects came only a year or two after we signed our joint agreement. Now we have one think tank member of the Network in each of the six WB countries, and we are proud that each of the members is a strong, renowned and independent think tank, working on multiple issues within the EU integration field.
What is the role of your organization – CEP – within the Network?
As one of the co-founders of the Network, European Policy Centre (CEP) has assumed the role of the Network Secretariat. We agreed early on that the TEN should have a stable secretariat, whereas there should be a governing body – TEN Council – with a rotating presidency. Currently, the Presidency of the Council is performed by our Macedonian member think tank – European Policy Institute – EPI.
Milena Lazarević, CEP’s Programme Director
Can you tell us how the WeBER – EC funded project in 6 Western Balkan countries – fits into the TEN context?
WeBER is a perfect example of how the Network works. It was built on a common challenge for all of the countries of the region: Once the EU and SIGMA published a new framework for guiding and assessing the reforms of public administration in the Western Balkans (Principles of Public Administration) we jointly recognized that local actors need to learn about this framework and how to use it to monitor administrative reforms in their countries and even local communities. We also recognized a strong regional dimension and an opportunity to create regional mechanisms for monitoring the progress of the countries in fulfilling these new Principles, comparing how countries fare against each other, but also for facilitating the dialogue within the civil society of the region and between the civil society and the governments on public administration reform. Through WeBER, we have also expanded our network to three new members and we are gradually increasing its capacity, with the support of our EU partner – European Policy Centre (EPC).
What are your plans for the Networks’ future?
We see a great potential for TEN and we plan to strengthen it strategically and thematically. We are in the process of developing our strategic program and we believe that the Network could be of great value for regional cooperation and the region’s EU accession process, especially if we continue to successfully integrate both the civil society and governmental institutions in our projects and initiatives. We realize that each of our countries individually cannot represent an important factor for international actors, but when speaking on behalf of 6 countries, when presenting research which compares those 6 countries and when organizing regional events, we believe we can truly attract more attention to the region, both to its advantages and to its problems.
What lessons and experiences can you share with other CSOs who might be thinking about cross-border cooperation and networking?
Networks and cooperation should be genuine, not be created simply for project purposes. The more genuine the wish to work together is, the easier it will be to overcome challenges and difficulties which are bound to arise from time to time. It takes a lot of work and a lot of patience sometimes, to coordinate and agree among six members, but when a joint interest is realized and pursued, no obstacle is too big.
*This interview is produced as a part of the first issue of the TEN Newsletter.
A two-day regional training “CSO Participation in the Policymaking: Experiences from Poland and Hungary” was held in Budva, Montenegro, on 12-13 May 2017. The training, which was organised by CEP, gathered member organisations of the TEN network and partners from Poland and Hungary, as well as a representative of ReSPA (Regional School for Public Administration). Participants had the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into the features of Poland and Hungary’s policymaking systems, practical considerations, experiences of CSO involvement in the policymaking, and other good practices regarding the participation of civil society in these countries. The training was interactive and provided the platform for discussion and sharing views among the participant organisations.
Mr Maciej Kolczyński, the expert at IDEA foundation from Poland, talked about the policymaking practices and CSO participation in Poland, presenting the “Citizens for Democracy” case. He explained that CSOs in Poland suffer from ad-hoc, project-based funding which threatens their sustainability and influence.
Mr Andrew Cartwright, Research Fellow at the Center for Policy Studies of the CEU, introduced participants into the Hungary’s policymaking systems and gave insight into the best practice examples of involvement of Hungarian CSOs in policymaking processes. Among other experiences, he shared that the NUTS transformation in Hungary was artificial and made a negative impact on the CSO cooperation and capacities to influence policymaking.
The training was part of the project Raising capacities and advocacy potential towards the more substantive involvement of CSOs of V4 and WB6, implemented by TEN network and supported by the Visegrad Fund.
European Policy Centre, within the framework of the WeBER project, and in cooperation with the Visegrad Fund, organized a seminar “Effective monitoring of public policies”. The seminar was held in Novi Sad, April 19-22.
The seminar discussed the Concept Papers of the National Working Group on Public Administration Reform (PAR) and the establishment of the National Working Group in Serbia (NRG). The NRG is a national consultative mechanism for civil society participation in dialogue with relevant state bodies on the design and monitoring of the PAR process in Serbia.
Sena Maric, CEP Senior Researcher, talked about the policy-making cycle, EU standards and examples of good practice in policy-making and policy co-ordination, and about civil society monitoring in the context of EU accession. Miloš Đinđić, CEP Senior Researcher, spoke about WeBER’s approach to the monitoring process in the case of the PAR. Corina Stratulat from EPC, partner organization within the WEBER project, talked about policy research and analysis and how Western-European think tank organizations work, as well as about communication with stakeholders in the area of public policy monitoring. Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director, spoke about WEBER PAR Monitor methodology, indicators for monitoring the PAR, as well as the research and analytical methods of PAR Monitor methodology.
The Weber Project is funded by the European Union and co-financed by the Kingdom of The Netherlands.
WeBER – Western Balkans Enabling Project for Civil Society Monitoring of Public Administration Reform Project is seeking proposals for the implementation of the Small Grant Facility for Support for Civil Society Monitoring of Public Administration Reform at Local Level. The Call for proposals is in the total amount of 255.000 EUR intended to support 30 grants in the range between 5000 and 10000 EUR (8500 EUR on average). Out of the 30 grants, up to 6 are envisioned in Serbia, up to 6 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, up to 5 in Albania, up to 5 in Macedonia, up to 4 in Kosovo, and up to 4 in Montenegro. The duration of the project proposal under this Call for proposals is between 6 and 12 months. WeBER is financed by the EU and co-financed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The complete Call for applicants and all relevant documents are available for download below:
A series of interactive seminars on SIGMA Principles of Public Administration were organised across the Western Balkans region in cooperation with SIGMA/OECD, as part of the WeBER project being implemented by the TEN.
A two-day seminar for Serbian CSO’s was held in Belgrade on 14th and 15th December 2016, gathering more than 30 CSOs from Serbia. Participants had the opportunity to learn from SIGMA experts about the Principles of Public Administration developed by SIGMA/OECD. They had the chance to see the premiere of multimedia presentations produced within the WeBER project, about the key reform areas these Principles cover. The aim of the seminar was to introduce SIGMA Principles of Public Administration to a wider group of CSOs coming from local communities from all around Serbia who are active in PAR related areas. The seminar was hosted by CEP. See the highlights here.
On 26 January 2017, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS) hosted a one-day seminar for the Civil Society Organisations in Kosovo. The CSOs had the chance to receive first-hand information with regards to SIGMA’s approach towards Public Administration Reform (PAR) process from the SIGMA Representative and Coordinator for Kosovo, Mr. Jesper Johnson, who was engaged as a lecturer during this seminar. See the highlights from Pristina here.
Seminar in Sarajevo was held on 30th and 31st January 2017 and more than 30 representatives of CSOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina had the opportunity to hear SIGMA experts Mr. Vehar and Mr. Tunyan on the framework of Principles of Public Administration, and to participate in workshops. The event was hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative Sarajevo. See the highlights here.
Institute alternative (IA) hosted the seminar in Podgorica on 1st February 2017. More than 40 civil society representatives had the opportunity to learn from SIGMA experts, Mr Timo Ligi and Mr Daniel Ivarsson about Principles of Public Administration, the work of SIGMA, and the key findings from the SIGMA’s Baseline and Monitoring reports for 2015 and 2016. See the highlights of the Podgorica seminar here.
Working breakfast on the topic Achieving Excellence through Regional Cooperation was held on 24th November in Belgrade, gathering members of the Think for Europe Network (TEN) as well as distinguished experts from the Regional Environmental Center (REC) and the Center of Excellence in Finance (CEF). Participants discussed the added value of pursuing a regional approach and shared their experiences in regional networking. The aim of the event was to formulate new ideas for inspiring creation of a more constructive regional initiatives in the Western Balkans region. Additionally, the event served as an opportunity to present the first Position Paper of the newly created Centre for Excellence in Policymaking (CEPS WeB), established by six think-tank organisations from the Western Balkans, members of TEN. The discussion was moderated by Simonida Kacarska, Research Coordinator at the European Policy Institute (EPI).
Representing the Center of Excellence in Finance, prof. dr Mojmir Mrak explained the success of CEF and gave insight into the challenges of its 15-year-long functioning. He emphasised that the CEF is a knowledge hub for the South Eastern Europe region. Additional regional learning opportunities were exemplified by Igor Kostić, who represented the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe. He pointed out the fact that the regional approach could significantly contribute to the capacity development in the Western Balkan countries, as all countries have the same environmental problems.
Senior Researcher at CEP Sena Marić presented the CEPS WeB Position Paper, making a case for taking up regional approach in tackling and advocating for more evidence-based policymaking in the Western Balkans. She talked about the effect as well as the unused potential of the civil society organisations in pressuring for improved policymaking in the Western Balkan countries. She also added that legalistic administrative cultures in the Western Balkans are in need for more evidence to create better policymaking environments, while governments need to provide more data in order to enable quality policymaking and civil society monitoring.
The WeBER Platform was officially established on the occasion of the 9th Annual Conference of the Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA), on November 16, 2016 in Podgorica.
The Memorandum of Cooperation regarding the functioning of the WeBER Platform was signed by 22 civil society organizations (CSOs) from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
As the WeBER Platform provides a venue for consultation and evidence-based dialogue between the civil society, government representatives and international and regional organisations (European Commission, ReSPA, RCC etc.) onpublic administration reform implementation and monitoring, membership in the Platform will enable CSOs to take more active involvement in these processes at the regional level and in their respective countries. Also, the Platform will serve as a venue for exchange of experiences and good practices.
Prior to the signing ceremony, the Platform members discussed and adopted documents that will serve as guidelines for the Platform’s functioning and proceedings, and worked on further development of the PAR Monitor Methodology.
Starting from today, a brand-new website of our WeBER project (Western Balkans Enabling Project for Civil Society Monitoring of Public Administration Reform – WeBER) is launched!
Make sure to check it regularly for gaining insight into latest developments on public administration reform monitoring by the civil society in the Western Balkans. Also, you can familiarise with the WeBER project a little bit better, as well as learn about specific tools and products we plan to develop. Hopefully, it will inspire many civil society organisations to partner up with us.
We hope you will find it useful at this early stage of development, as we continue to work on its content.
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