Flawed policymaking in Albania: Tackling lack of transparency and evidence-based policymaking


One of the critical dimensions of the public administration reform (PAR) in Albania and of the European accession process refers to the transparency of policy development. Access to information has been often described as the ‘oxygen of democracy’ enabling citizens to truly participate in an informed way in decision-making processes, hold those in power accountable and influence policy development. The absence of or inaccessibility to information can create a sense of disempowerment, mistrust, and frustration with those in power. Transparency is also a principle of good governance and requires a continues dialogue and cooperation between decision makers and other actors in society. Studies have shown that transparency benefits policy efficiency and is deemed as a crucial instrument to fight corruption. The free flow of information is thus paramount to democratic processes, building trust between government and citizens and contributing to the progress of policy development.

Through secondary resources and data collected by the WeBER 2.0 PAR Monitoring Report, this policy brief zooms into the practices of arbitrary policymaking and lack of transparency in policy development in Albania. It discusses its implications and outlines some key recommendations on how to reverse the current situation particularly in terms of increasing transparency through the engagement of civil society analysis and inputs, evidence-based policy and data-driven decision making. Although public consultations and participation in policy development is an interlinked dimension of the overall transparency efforts of the governments, it falls outside of the scope of this policy brief.

Find the Policy Brief here (in English) and here (in Albanian).

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A Template for Staged Accession to the EU


If there can be a broad intuitive appeal for the idea of staged accession, then what naturally follows is the need for a detailed explanation on how this would work in practice, which this paper explores for each of the EU institutions.

The picture that emerges is that the EU’s institutions could well lend themselves to the idea of staged membership, with various examples or precedents to be noted, also connecting with the related idea of ‘differentiated’ integration. A successful development and practical application along these lines would do much to restore positive momentum to the European project itself, currently threatened by a damaged reputation, as well as numerous internal and external threats. The paper sets out a substantial institutional, technical and legal basis for a breakthrough out of the current impasse. It remains for political leaders in both the EU and the Western Balkans to signal their interest in such ideas, and thus launch debate at the strategic level, so that the institutions can work towards defining a formal proposal. The implementation of the system of staged accession would have to be supplemented by a robust EU policy geared towards the resolution of bilateral disputes and issues of statehood in the region.

Download the paper here.

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(Non)transparency as a mirror of (ir)responsibility: How do the Government and state administration bodies report on their performance?


POLICY BRIEF

Milica Škorić, Junior Researcher, Miloš Đinđić, Lead Researcher, European Policy Centre – CEP

Good governance implies governance that focuses on citizens, their well-being and satisfaction. One of the main attributes of good governance is transparency in the work of institutions and the decision-making process, in order to provide the public with timely information about activities and decisions that may have an impact on everyday life. With transparent insight into decisions of public interest, citizens in democratic societies have the opportunity not only to be informed but also to point out shortcomings and demand accountability, thus creating an unbreakable link between transparency and public accountability for the results achieved. Public reporting about work and performance is one of the ways to ensure government transparency in practice. In Serbia, the long-standing problem of non-transparent annual reporting on the work of the Government and the administration results in a lack of accountability towards citizens.

The picture that emerges is that the EU’s institutions could well lend themselves to the idea of staged membership, with various examples or precedents to be noted, also connecting with the related idea of ‘differentiated’ integration. A successful development and practical application along these lines would do much to restore positive momentum to the European project itself, currently threatened by a damaged reputation, as well as numerous internal and external threats. The paper sets out a substantial institutional, technical and legal basis for a breakthrough out of the current impasse. It remains for political leaders in both the EU and the Western Balkans to signal their interest in such ideas, and thus launch debate at the strategic level, so that the institutions can work towards defining a formal proposal. The implementation of the system of staged accession would have to be supplemented by a robust EU policy geared towards the resolution of bilateral disputes and issues of statehood in the region.

The Brief can be downloaded here (in English) and here (in Serbian).

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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

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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Publishing information on the public service in North Macedonia: Why is transparency and accountability important


In the public administration context, as set forth under the SIGMA Principles, it is extremely important for the State Audit Office (SAO) to apply standards in a neutral and objective way in order to ensure high quality audits, which subsequently will have a positive impact on the public sector functioning. The documents presenting the outcomes of audits should be guided by three principles, i.e., they should be aimed at strengthening the responsibility, transparency, and integrity of the Government and of public sector entities (protection of the public interest); then they should emphasize the importance of such principles to citizens, to the Parliament and to other stakeholders; and finally, they should demonstrate what it means to lead by a role model.

The SAO is one of the key institutions in identifying and disclosing irregularities, cases of illegal actions and possible cases of corruption and abuse of office. In this regard, the latest European Commission (EC) Report explicitly states that it is necessary to allocate adequate resources for this institution that has competencies in the fight against corruption in order to be able to pursue high-profile cases.

Find the Policy Brief here (in English) and here (in Macedonian).

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Do new circumstances change routines? Public administration and service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Western Balkans

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak on citizens’ usage of electronic access to administrative services has been limited in the Western Balkans. The Brief analyzes potential reasons for this and reflects on cross-national variations.

The Brief can be downloaded here.

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What do citizens tell us about administrative services? The second public perception survey in the Western Balkans

Public perceptions from four out of six countries in the Western Balkans suggest that state administration has become more citizen oriented in the past two years. Citizens throughout the region are increasingly aware of electronic access to administrative services, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has had a limited impact on using this type of access. Interesting country-level variations are noted in different aspects of the survey.

Click to download the survey

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Breaking the impasse: Exploiting new opportunities to strengthen EU-Western Balkans relations

This discussion paper argues that successful economic and democratic transformation of the Western Balkans depends not only on a more coherent political engagement of the EU and its member states with the region, but also on a more effective use of the full range of tools within the enlargement policy toolbox. The revised methodology for accession negotiations and the recently announced Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) have the potential to revive the region’s sluggish EU integration process. For these instruments to succeed, it would be essential to show that they help drive the process forward. This will only be the case if negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia are launched, i.e. the first Inter-governmental Conferences (IGCs) are held during the German presidency of the Council of the EU. In this way, the EU and its member states will show their actual commitment to the process and also likely incentivise the other countries in the region to speed up their domestic transformation processes in view of EU accession.

Download the paper here.

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Opening governments in times of lockdown

governments, WeBER2.0, WeBER, Western Balkans

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has spurred a myriad of measures from governments in the Western Balkans to better inform their citizens and provide services in emergency circumstances. Yet, responses to the pandemic and the institution of unprecedented lockdown measures have introduced various challenges to already fragile standards of transparency, accountability and rule of law, as well as have exposed shortcomings in the functioning of public administrations, in the Western Balkans. The crisis is increasingly being used as an excuse to backslide on previously achieved progress. The way emergency measures were adopted and enforced, and how citizens were informed, require close scrutiny, so as to ensure that the practices developed during this crisis do not become the “new normal”.

This policy brief, developed as part of the regional WeBER initiative, examines the approaches of public administrations in the Western Balkans to the COVID-19 crisis. It looks at the quality of communication and implementation of the measures taken by the governments of the Western Balkans to respond to the pandemic. It argues that simple and streamlined communication and transparency in the implementation of such measures are equally, if not more, important in times of emergencies and crises, when citizens are more vulnerable in their relationship with the government than in normal times. Based on an overview of positive and negative practices exhibited in the region, this brief offers a set of recommendations for governments to consider as soon as possible, in order to ensure maximum learning from this experience. There is a two-fold benefit to considering these recommendations. Firstly, they may prove valuable in the event of a second wave of pandemic (as is projected by epidemiologists), which might require the re-imposition of some measures in the coming months. Secondly, certain precautionary measures are likely to remain in place even after lockdowns and restrictions across the region are ended, with the implementation of these recommendations potentially of benefit to citizens in the near future as well.

Download the brief here.

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