Civil Society and Policy Making in the Visegrad Group Countries: Lessons for the Western Balkans

Civil society organisations (CSOs) of the Western Balkans (WB6) are relatively young compared to their counterparts from Visegrad countries (V4). This could be seen as a natural consequence related to political and historical circumstances in both regions over the past 20 years: the early transition to democracy in the V4 countries paved the way for growth of civil society sector and accelerated its development, while simultaneously the WB6 region experienced a severe social, economic and political downfall. Indeed, the post-communist era in the V4 served for the civil sector growth, as organisations could provide assistance in terms of expertise and resources in certain areas where, still fragile and recovering states, could not manage to do so. The development of civil society sector in V4 was therefore to a great extent impacted by democratic reforms, along with early public administration reform and Europeanisation processes, while the WB countries were still recovering from the fierce conflict period at that time.

It is our immense pleasure to share with you a collection of articles produced within the project Raising capacities and advocacy potential towards more substantive involvement of CSOs of V4 and WB6. This collection provides insights into challenges of civil society participation in policymaking in three countries of the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland), in the intention to share valuable lessons for the Western Balkan countries. Articles are a result of experience exchanging events that took place in spring and summer of 2017, gathering representatives of TEN Network and partner organisations from Visegrad countries: namely, a two-day workshop addressing experiences from Poland and Hungary was held in Budva (Montenegro) on 12-13 May, while on June 26-30, representatives of each of the TEN member organisations, together with civil servants from each of the Western Balkan countries, participated in a study tour to Slovak Republic and Czech Republic.

This study is funded by Visegrad Fund.

Regional-Study-Web

Reforming from the BENCH – MARKING OFFSIDE

“The fundamentals first” approach announced in 2013 places the focus of the EU integration process on democracy and the rule of law. This mechanism relies on extensive system of benchmarking, which was developed for Romania and Bulgaria in the post-accession period (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism), while now it is being implemented for each chapter of the EU’s acquis under negotiation. Accordingly, benchmarks represent a set of
requirements for accession negotiations for chapters of the acquis – opening and closing benchmarks (and interim benchmarks for Chapter 23 Judiciary and Fundamental rights and Chapter 24 Justice, Freedom and Security). The aim of such approach is at one side, to aid the candidate countries by making the requirements more concrete and on the other side to facilitate the process of assessment of progress achieved and thus navigate and give directions
to the accession process. Moreover, benchmarks have been introduced for the countries that are yet to open accession negotiations without actually enjoying the benefits of negotiations. Thus, benchmarking has become the key mechanism of EU conditionality policy towards the Western Balkans (WB6) that should ensure the consistency and credibility of this policy, while providing encouragement for further reform. Although this mechanism has already been implemented for a decade, its results have not yet been systematically assessed.

The analyses, made within  BENCHER Project represent a first major attempt to critically evaluate the degree to which the objectives are achieved and the extent to which targeted problems are solved in order to further advance in the EU accession process. The purpose is to highlight and compare the key developments in relation to the selected benchmarks in the six countries, whereas an in-depth discussion of the benchmarks in the separate countries is to be found in the national studies.

Regional Analysis

Inside-Regional

Macedonia

Benchmarking-in-Macedonia

Serbia

Benchmarking-in-Serbia-1

Albania

Benchmarking-in-Albania

Kosovo

Benchmarking-in-Kosovo

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Benchmarking-in-BIH

Montenegro

Benchmarking-in-Montenegro

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:

Infographic

 

                                                                              

The contributors to the regional analysis are:

 

Regional Analysis

Regional-Analasis-edit-21.12

Albania

C.A-Albania

Macedonia

C.A-Macedonia

C.A-Serbia

Montenegro

C.A.-Montenegro

Bosnia and Herzegovina

C.A-BiH

Kosovo

C.A-Kosovo

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.