Coping with the EU decision-making: How are the Balkan countries preparing their policymaking systems for membership?

High-quality standards in the development and coordination of public policy are always relevant in a domestic context but even more so in the framework of EU accession. Under the public administration reform (PAR) pillar of the European Union’s conditionality for the Balkans, the EU puts a strong emphasis on the improvement of the aspirants’ policy development and coordination practices. Independent monitoring suggests that the region’s governments currently display a low level of preparedness in the sphere of policymaking and coordination. Out of the broad PAR portfolio within the EU accession process, the area of policy development and coordination stands out as one of the weakest points.

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Western Balkan PAR Monitor 2017/2018 – Executive Summary

The PAR Monitor is the result of research undertaken over the past year by the Think for Europe Network, with the goal of providing a systematic civil society monitoring of public administration reforms (PAR) in the Western Balkans. This exercise was motivated by the need to strengthen domestic, bottom-up pressure from the civil society sector in the long run, in order to ensure that post-EU accession, when the leverage of the EU’s conditionality in the governance area weakens, the reform drive endures. Based on a robust methodological approach, combining quantitative and qualitative techniques, and building on the EU’s Principles of public administration, the PAR Monitor measures the countries’ state of play in PAR, benchmarks them against each other, and provides recommendations for improvement. The PAR Monitor also ensures complementarity with the monitoring carried out by SIGMA/OECD and the European Commission. It, therefore, provides a citizen and civil society focused perspective on the EU-SIGMA principles. The PAR Monitor comprises an overall comparative regional report and six country reports, each including findings on the 23 compound indicators designed by the WeBER project team to monitor a selection of 21 EU-SIGMA principles. All findings can be accessed via the Regional PAR Scoreboard at www.par-monitor.org. This document provides a summary of the key regional findings in the six areas of PAR.

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Evidence-based and inclusive policymaking in the Western Balkans: What role for think tanks and other policy-orientated CSOs?

 

This Policy Brief is produced within the project Raising capacities and advocacy potential of CSOs of Visegrad Group and Western Balkans.

The space for civil society contribution has been gradually shrinking across the Western Balkans, making it harder for civil society organisations to actively take part in the policymaking process in their home countries.

This paper aims to shed light on an insufficiently enabling, often even disabling, environment for the work of civil society organisations (CSOs) from the region. It does so by providing a comparative overview of CSOs involvement in the policymaking in different countries across the Western Balkans (WB), whilst also identifying the limitations of the very policymaking processes in the WB. Finally, as the accession process of the region accelerates, the paper shows how CSOs can use the EU’s more credible enlargement commitment to move beyond the unfavourable situation and increase their impact on policymaking.

The project was realised with the kind support of the International Visegrad Fund.

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Putting citizens first (?) Exploring public perceptions of administrative services in the Western Balkans

Governments across the Western Balkans have made efforts towards improving service delivery; however, they are still unable to meet their citizens’ expectations of more accessible, transparent and responsive services. Part of the problem is that governments continue to typically design and offer services on the basis of their own requirements instead of taking into account the perspectives and needs of the citizens they serve.

This report draws on a regional survey of 6172 respondents from Western Balkans aged 18 and older, surveyed in the second half of October and during November 2017 by using stratified three-stage random representative sampling. Its main aim was to explore perceptions towards the implementation of a citizen-oriented delivery of administrative services using the years 2015-2017 as a reference period. The main survey results are analysed below in four clusters: administrative simplification, e-services, feedback mechanisms of service delivery, and monitoring. 

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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.

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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.