The Western Balkans’ bumpy quest for EU integration: 2016 Comparative overview

In 2016 the TEN network provided a structured, comprehensive and objective analysis of the European Commission country reports for the first time for all the Western Balkan countries, which enabled the comparison of the grading system and EC assessment of all the accession criteria/chapters of the country reports. Building upon this effort, one of the aims of the BENCHER Project is to deepen this analysis further, providing a more critical review of the EC assessments, based on the lessons learned. Furthermore, this year’s analysis dedicates a special focus to the recommendations provided by the EC in the 2015 and 2016 country reports, assessing the degree to which they were considered and implemented by each country. In addition, we have provided a critical note from a CSO’s standpoint as watchdogs of both the governments and the EU institutions.

With this analysis we aim to provide recommendations to the EU, for improving the monitoring mechanisms.

Other publications made within BENCHER Project can be found here.

You can access the contents of the publication below:




The contributors to the regional analysis are:


Regional Analysis









Bosnia and Herzegovina




Balkan enlargement and the politics of civic pressure: The case of the public administration reform sector

One of the lessons learnt from previous enlargement waves is the need to complement the politics of conditionality – that is, Brussel’s traditional ‘carrot and stick approach’ – with the politics of pressure – whereby the governments in the Balkan countries are ‘squeezed’ between civil society demands and an uncompromising European Commission.

In this Policy Brief, Milena Lazarevic and Corina Stratulat review the origins of civil society involvement in the public sector reforms leading to a country’s accession to the European Union. The search for civil society allies represents a promising break with the legacy of previous accessions in which governments were the Commission’s only trusted interlocutors. To avoid (or at least mitigate) the possibility of backsliding on reforms as it occurred in a number of Central Eastern European countries after their EU entry, the Commission is wisely investing now into the politics of bottom-up pressure for the Balkan aspirants.

The authors also draw lessons from recent steps taken to ensure a more transparent, formal and structured dialogue with civil society in all the countries of the region, and to boost the skills, knowledge and know-how of civil society organisations in the PAR area.

To that end, they recommend that, for each Balkan aspirant, the European Commission should:

  • Agree with the lead PAR authority on a uniform practice of publishing the agenda and minutes of each PAR Special Groups (PAR SG) meeting.
  • Decide on a common, structured approach to the organisation of preparatory consultations with civil society ahead of each PAR SG meeting.
  • Recommend that the government make all reports produced during the PAR process publicly available (both those produced by the EU’s missions/experts and those prepared by national institutions) to increase accountability and stimulate domestic policy debates.

This policy brief was originally published by European Policy Centre – EPC, as part of collaboration with the Think for Europe Network, under the framework of the WeBER project.


Policymaking in the Western Balkans: Creating Demand for Evidence beyond EU Conditionality

EU aspirants from the Western Balkans find themselves in a lengthy and demanding process of improving their policymaking systems. Sustainable results require not only robust tools and procedures but also the involvement of all interested parties – civil society, media, interest groups and associations – into policymaking. However, policymaking as a topic is under-researched and its relevance somewhat underestimated both by the state and the civil society actors in the region. This Position Paper presents arguments to highlight the necessity for more streamlined engagement of the civil society to act as effective scrutinisers of policymaking reforms as well as to take a more constructive role in policymaking processes, consequently rendering it more transparent and evidence-based.

The Position Paper is made under the CEPS WeB project, whose aim was to create a Centre for Excellence within the institutional framework provided by the Think for Europe Network (TEN). The project is financed under the framework of the Regional Research Promotion Programme (RRPP).

This Position Paper is available in  EnglishAlbanian, Macedonian and Serbian/Bosnian/Montenegrin language.

South East Europe 2020: Civil Society and State Administration on the Same Mission

States do not own a monopoly over information, therefore the role of civil society in the monitoring of public policies and achievement of strategic goals becomes even more important. Almost as a rule, transition countries lack official statistical data. Moreover, available data are usually incomplete; which makes evidence based policy making even more difficult, and also unreliable when it comes to officially presented data on the public policy implementation. Therefore, civil society should play its role as the corrective mechanism in relation to the relevant institutions at the national and regional level.

The process of implementation of the South East Europe 2020 Strategy, the regional strategy document, which was modeled on the reform agenda of the European Union (EU), Europe 2020, provides a framework for the greater involvement of civil society in the process of directing overall social and economic development of the region as well as institution-building process in countries that are still in the process of consolidating democracy. An area in which civil society organisations can provide special contribution is “Governance for Growth”, all-pervasive strategy pillar covering improvement of public services, fight against corruption and judicial reform. The mere fact that public officials are subjected to ever greater political conditioning by the EU, which can often lead to a risk to their personal careers and point out the corruption within institutions, is reflecting the importance of independent, external role of “watchdog” that civil society can take.

For the purposes of this publication, which aims to provide guidance to civil society organisations to engage in monitoring the “Governance for growth” pillar, monitoring is defined as systematic data collection towards gaining insight of the specific policy at a given time in relation to the targets and results. This definition reflects a paradigm shift when it comes to monitoring policy, i.e. from the former monitoring process, primarily focused on the implementation of certain policies, to the result-oriented monitoring, as an instrument that allows stakeholders and decision makers to monitor progress and impact of specific policies. As such, monitoring is a natural introduction to the evaluation of public policies, and assessment of the policy impact after a certain period of its implementation.

Full publication (in Montenegrin) is available here.

Please see the video animation (in Montenegrin):


The Western Balkans and Its EU Integration: 2015 Comparative Overview

A comprehensive analysis of the EC’s country reports has been lacking on the regional level. There have been efforts by CSOs at country level to provide a systematic input to the annual country reports and to the strategy through the so-called “shadow reports”, primarily intended to provide objective assessment of the accession process by the civil sector, which then served as an additional source for the Commission in monitoring and evaluation of the countries’ progress. This is the first structured attempt to provide an independent regional analysis and follow-up of EC country reports on the Western Balkan countries, on the basis of a harmonised methodology and unique approach by a group of CSOs from the region.

You can access the contents of the publication via the following links:

  1. The Western Balkans and Its EU Integration: 2015 Comparative Overview 
  2. Appendices: Analysis and follow-up of the EC country reports 2015 for MontenegroSerbiaMacedoniaAlbaniaKosovo;
  3. Infographic

The contributors to the regional analysis are:

Performance Audit and Policy Evaluation in the Western Balkans: On the Same or Parallel Tracks?

From a conceptual perspective, performance audit and policy evaluation are very close fields, with highly converging goals, methods and tools. At the same time, in the Western Balkans these two fields have been evolving without connection and reference to each other. How can the two processes be brought closer together in the three studied WB countries – Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – with a view to ensure efficiencies and synergic development of these rather novel performance management instrument?

The study is the final product of a research project which lasted over twelve months. The project “Performance Audit and Policy Evaluation: On the Same or Parallel Tracks?” is implemented in the framework of the Regional Research Promotion Programme in the Western Balkans (RRPP) with financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Policy Study is available for download here.

Policy Briefs are available in English, Serbian, Montenegrin and Macedonian.


Improving Performance of Public Administration: Current Experiences and Future Perspectives (Conference Proceedings)

It is our great pleasure to share with you 10 papers presented at the Conference Improving Performance of Public Administration:Current Experiences and Future Perspectives, which was held on 09-10 September 2015 in Belgrade. The papers in this publication follow the order of their presentation in the three working groups organised on the second day of the Conference: 1) Does Policy Evaluation Matter?, 2) Public Administration, Performance and Delivery and 3) Improving Policy Making.

The Conference was organised within the project “Performance Audit and Policy Evaluation: On the Same or Parallel Tracks?”, which is implemented by member organisations of the Think for Europe Network (TEN) under the framework of the Regional Research Promotion Programme in the Western Balkans (RRPP) Promotion Programme in the Western Balkans (RRPP), and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Conference Proceedings is available for download here.

*The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent opinions of the Think for Europe Network or its member organisations.

Coordination Requirements and Institutional Set-up in the EU Accession Process and Negotiations

TEN members produced background paper with the title “Coordination Requirements and Institutional Set-up in the EU Accession Process and Negotiations” for the needs of implementing Regional Workshop of the Network of the EU Integration Offices in South East Europe held in Montenegro, in the framework of GIZ Open Regional Funds for SEE – Promotion of EU Integration project.

Subdivided into six chapters, paper analyses requirements for institutional set-up and coordination in the overall EU integration process taking into consideration specificities of the Western Balkans enlargement and national coordination structures in the association process; institutional set-up and coordination requirements for accession negotiations from the view of the main structures needed for running accession negotiations; link between the policy making and coordination at the national level and EU accession; lastly, involvement of stakeholders such as civil society organizations and national assemblies in the EU accession process.

Background paper is available for download here.

In the framework of GIZ – Open Regional Funds for SEE – Promotion of EU Integration

Human Resources for EU Membership: What Policies in the Western Balkans?

This paper examines some directions, policies and practices in human capacity development for EU accession in the Western Balkan and CEE countries and aims to induce a more vivid regional level debate on the best approaches to recruiting, forming and retaining professional staff needed for achieving and upholding EU membership.

It has been developed mainly using archive research, with strong emphasis on the analysis of available primary documents.

The first findings of the research were presented at the regional conference “Building Human Capacities for EU Accession in the EE Countries” held on 13-16 October 2014 in Cavtat, Croatia and the discussions and feedback received at the conference were also included in the final version of the paper.

Background paper is available for download here.

Background paper is produced within the GIZ Open Regional Funds for South East Europe – Promotion of EU Integration.