Ticking the box on public consultations: Enablers, repercussions, solutions?


A transparent approach to consultation processes, inclusive of civil society and open to the public, is essential to ensure the integrity, quality, and legitimacy of decision-making. The effectiveness and genuineness of such processes are integrally bound to the transparency provided by the institutions in charge of the decision-making.

To enable public scrutiny, access to public consultation processes must be ensured by the government, from the initial phases of law-making and policy-making, before the draft documents reach the Parliament. The Council of Ministers (hereinafter ‘’the CoM’’) is a key actor in such processes since it submits an average of 80–85% of all the draft laws that are reviewed by the Parliament every year. Therefore, this policy brief will address public consultation processes at the central government level with the aim to expose factors that enable their circumvention. It argues that to conduct successful and meaningful public consultations processes, the shortcomings in the legal framework and institutional practice that enable the circumvention, need to be addressed. Lastly, it provides policy recommendations that aim to eliminate the identified legal gaps and improve proactive transparency.

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

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Addressing the lack of open data in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Open data refers to public sector information or government data that can be readily and widely accessed and reused. This data must be available at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, mainly available for download over the internet, in a convenient and modifiable form. The main reason behind this is interoperability – the ability of diverse systems and organisations to work together, allowing for different components to intermix. The opening of public data represents a phase in the development of an idea of public administration transparency, an idea that contributes to society as a whole. Publishing public data contributes to the transparency of public institutions, the work efficiency of public administration, as well as to higher involvement of citizens in decision-making processes. By making governments more transparent, open data can provide clear information on how public money is being spent and how different policies are being implemented. Publicly available data can contribute to informing individuals on relevant state matters and contribute to opinion forming. With that, it can boost citizen participation in political life and promote the significance of public consultations. Furthermore, open data allows citizens to obtain necessary information without needing to directly contact public administration, resulting in higher efficiency and less workload for public institutions. This can also initiate long-lasting cooperation among different agencies and institutions in the public sector. Since there is a growing need for an open data policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the intent of this policy brief is to address this need, assess and analyze the current state in this regard, as well as provide recommendations for further steps on the path towards opening data, relying on WeBER PAR Monitoring Reports for 2019/2020.

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

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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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The model of staged accession to the European Union: Addressing the four key concerns

The model of staged accession has captured some attention in the discussions on the future of the EU enlargement policy. Initially published in October 2021, the proposal has so far inspired several cross-European debates, and gained support by numerous members of the expert community as well as some policymakers. Although the proposal has had a promising start, it is yet to gain recognition by the EU institutions and wider support from EU member states. Finding consensus on such an out-of-the-box solution becomes all the more warranted at the time when the enlargement process seems to be at an impasse. In order to take a step closer towards overturning the status quo, this paper discusses the doubts and concerns about the model that have been raised in the discussions held to date.

Download the Paper here.

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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Youth Manifesto for Digital Space

Throughout the past decade, the online sphere has been turning into an essential part of people’s daily lives. Having been strongly affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic, much of our lives have transitioned into the online sphere. From education, business, to social life and networking – people have become overly reliant on various social media platforms to socialise and normalise their day-to-day lives.

The overreliance on the Internet has become particularly the case among the youth. In that regard, the pandemic has only exacerbated the previously existing challenges, while opening the door to the new ones whose consequences are yet to materialise. While being the most media literate generation yet, the youth (aged between 15 and 30), is confronted with several issues that have impacted their wellbeing and livelihood. With screen time increasing, many questions have opened – how will this affect the mental health of youth, to what extent will the increasing amount of dis- and misinformation on the Internet affect ways of thinking and decision-making, how will this transition impact the education process, social life, privacy, and security? As we are still found amid unprecedented times, these questions have no definite answer. Yet, it is highly important that conversations commence.

Behind extensive consultations in all capitals of the region, the joint conclusion of the Western Balkan youth, together with their counterparts across Europe, is that there is a dire need for the adoption of a regulation to better protect their right to free and safe digital space. Hence the Manifesto, whose intention is to stand as a call for action for European opinion- and decision-makers at the supranational, national, regional, and local level in the areas related to digital freedoms and Internet use.

Moreover, they call for:

  • consequential fight against the spread of disinformation and the rise in hate speech;
  • addressing the detrimental impact of the internet on mental health;
  • ensuring accountability of the social media platforms.

The Manifesto development was also supported by an online petition, signed by over 400 signatories in just two weeks. Considering the backing of the region’s youth and strong demand for action, this Manifesto lays out key demands that ought to be addressed. As the countries of the region have been excluded from directly partaking in the Conference on the Future of Europe, the voice of the Western Balkan youth becomes all the more important. “Shaping Europe’s digital future” is one of the thematic areas of the Conference, thus the Manifesto aspires to usher the path for further discussions in this area.

The call for a Manifesto was first publicly announced on 5 May 2021, just four days before the monumental day for all Europeans – the Europe day that celebrates unity in diversity. More so, this day marked the start of the long-awaited Conference on the Future of Europe, hoping to create a prospective future for all Europeans. In such a context, the aim of the Manifesto is to generate debate and policy action from relevant stakeholders in Europe.

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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.

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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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The Future of the EU in the Western Balkans… and the Future of the Western Balkans in the EU

The EU perspective toward the Western Balkans has remained undisputed, but especially since it endorsed accession for the region at the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003. Besides Serbia, where Euroscepticism is not a new phenomenon, the rest of the countries from the region have been gazing toward EU accession with strong backing from local populations.

Acknowledging such a fragile situation on the ground, this input paper explores pertinent questions regarding the future of the EU in the Western Balkans and vice versa. After providing a brief overview and analysis of the current state of the enlargement process, the paper will explore how the impact of the recently revised enlargement methodology can be maximised. Moreover, it will discuss opportunities for deepening the ties between the EU and the region, going beyond the formal accession process and procedures. By engaging in out-of-the-box thinking and searching for solutions outside the mainstream bubble, the paper will offer directions for changing the dysfunctional status quo. It should be noted, however, that the purpose of this paper is not to provide final and detailed solutions to the identified problems.

Rather, its purpose is to instigate debate and formulate issues to be subsequently addressed with policy recommendations by Think for Europe – TEN experts participating at the Civil Society & Think Tank Forum organised by the German Aspen Institute in cooperation with Southeast Europe Association.

The publication can be downloaded here.

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