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.Addressing-the-lack-of-open-data-in-Bosnia-and-Herzegovina
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.Nontransparency-as-a-mirror-of-irresponsibility
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.WeBer_Publishing-Information-on-the-Public-Service-in-North-Macedonia_Why-is-Transparency-and-Accountability-Important
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.Do-new-circumstances-change-routines
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.What-do-citizens-tell-us-about-administrative-services-The-second-public-perception-survey-in-the-Western-Balkans-1
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.Breaking-the-impasse_Think-for-Europe_TEN-1
This policy brief underscores outstanding issues that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis with possible long-term consequences on the functioning of democracy and rule of law in the six countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. This paper specifically addresses the impact of the crisis on the functioning of democratic institutions, the judiciary, fundamental rights and freedoms, transparency, civil society, and the media, and continues to assess its impact on the social and political climates in each country of the region. The report identifies country-specific as well as common issues that should be monitored closely going forward.
Download the brief here.The-Western-Balkans-and-the-COVID-19-Effects-on-good-governance-rule-of-law-and-civil-society
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.Opening-governments-in-times-of-lockdown_WeBER-policy-brief
Almost two decades have passed since the countries of the Western Balkans (WB) began their way on the European integration process. From today’s perspective, however, the region’s prospects of achieving EU membership in the foreseeable future appear rather grim.
This policy brief zooms precisely on this “executive bias” – the focus of the region’s EU integration process based largely on dialogue between elected governments, with insufficient involvement of parliaments and wider society. It contends that meeting membership criteria and securing the irreversibility of reforms post-accession is only possible if the ownership of reforms in aspirant countries is extended beyond the executive branch of power. It also offers recommendations towards building more substantive involvement of national parliaments and civil society in the EU integration process.
At the outset of a new political and institutional cycle of the EU, 2019 has been a year of many unknowns. For the countries of the Western Balkans, the direction of the future development of EU enlargement policy has been a key concern. During the mandate of the previous European Commission (EC) it has been clear for some time that there is discontent on the side of EU member states concerning the on-the ground effects of the enlargement methodology.
The discussions on the effects of the enlargement methodology gained new impetus following the European Parliamentary (EP) elections over the summer and related to the October 2019 European Council session at which the much-awaited decisions on the start of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania were on the agenda. The EU debate on enlargement has recently been accompanied by formal requests from EU member states to revise the methodology of enlargement, primarily in view of the progress as related to monitoring rule of law. Such demands have surfaced in various places, including coming directly from French President Macron, as well as appearing in September 2019 decisions of the Bundestag and Dutch Parliament. In short, EU member states demand that the enlargement methodology includes modes of strictly ensuring the monitoring and implementation of reforms, especially in relation to rule of law, as well as responding to reversibility in the accession process.
In this brief, we focus on the lessons learned from rule of law benchmarking in the Western Balkans so far in order to provide input for ongoing discussions on revising the accession methodology. The brief first provides an overview of rule of law benchmarking and provides key recommendations that need to be taken into consideration when revising rule of law instruments in the accession process. It then proceeds to summarise the key findings of a comparative research project on the effectiveness of benchmarking in the EU accession process in the Western Balkans. The findings presented here reflect on the debates at the October 2019 summit, at which EU member states did not reach a decision despite the recommendations of the European Commission to the start the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.
Download the Brief here.Effective-benchmarking-for-concrete-rule-of-law-reforms-in-the-Western-Balkans