Politicization risks in Albania’s civil service: Exclusions from the scope of the civil service law and the integrity of the senior civil service recruitment system


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 year1. 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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The role and potentials of the SAO in improving transparency, accountability, and efficiency of institutions


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 competences in the fight against corruption in order to be able to pursue high-profile cases.

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

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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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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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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.

Discussion about 2021 Enlargement Package with Maciej Popowski

24 November 2021 – Today, the European Policy Centre (CEP), together with other members of Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) organised an online discussion about the European Commission’s 2021 Enlargement Package. The event titled: EU Enlargement to the Western Balkans in the Light of the New Methodology gathered acting Director-General, Maciej Popowski, who presented this year’s reports, and CSOs representatives from six Western Balkans countries who discussed and commented on reports for each state. The panel was moderated by Milena Lazarević, CEP’s Programme Director. Panellists discussed how does the Enlargement Package support the building of a stronger Europe, what are the incentives offered to the Western Balkans through this Package, and does the current toolkit possess enough tools to deal with regional’s sensitive, yet complex issues while addressing the Fundamentals.

Mr. Popowski called, in his presentation, this year’s package “the mother of all packages” which comes after the visit of President Commission Ursula von der Leyen to Western Balkans in September and the Brdo Summit in October. He emphasised the necessity to maintain dynamics of the enlargement process despite the odds while underlining recommendations of the Commission to open two new Clusters with Serbia, finally start negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and secure visa liberalisation for Kosovo. Popowski stated that bilateral issues between Bulgaria and North Macedonia cast a big shadow on the enlargement and that there is very little time to find an agreement between the two countries to Bulgaria remove its veto. At the same time, Commission has sent its representatives to Bosnia and Herzegovina to find a way for overcoming institutional stalemate in this country. On the question about scepticism in some member states when it comes to further enlargement of the EU, Popowski pointed out that there has always been scepticism, but that we must avoid further disillusionment among citizens in candidate states. Asked about the model of staged accession, Popowski stated that he is entirely familiar with it, but he compared it with ideas from the 1990s about the EU in concentric circles. Finally, he sees the Open Balkan initiative as a part of a broader concept of regional cooperation and as a stepping stone towards the accession of the WB region to the EU, not as a substitute.

On the other hand, representatives of civil society and members of TEN (Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of Governing Board, European Policy Centre (CEP), Belgrade, Haris Ćutahija, Researcher, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI BH), Sarajevo, Marko Sošić, Policy Analyst, Institute Alternative (IA), Podgorica, Arbëresha Loxha Stublla, Executive Director and Senior Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), Pristina, Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Tirana, Ardita Abazi Imeri, Programme Coordinator, European Policy Institute (EPI), Skopje) criticised the politically correct wording of the report, stating that it was much softer than in previous years. Critics have been directed towards new enlargement methodology as well, stating that the ticking the box approach was not overcome and that introduced reforms are only structural, rather than substantial. They also called for elephant in the room to be said out loud clearly which is a lack of political will on both sides. Lastly, CSO representatives from six WB countries called the Commission for more evidence-based reports in the future and for transparently providing sources in upcoming reports. They expressed hope for more positive reports next year.


(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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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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EU enlargement to the Western Balkans in the light of the new methodology: Discussion about 2021 Enlargement Package

ONLINE EVENT


On October 19, the European Commission adopted its 2021 Enlargement Package, offering a comprehensive assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans on their individual paths towards the European Union, with a focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead. With the introduction of the new methodology which uses a merit-based approach, the focus of this Package is addressing fundamentals – rule of law, independence of the judiciary, media freedom, and the fight against organised crime and corruption – all while making sure that the EU itself delivers on its commitments.

The Commission acknowledged the region’s frontrunners, Montenegro, and Serbia, by noting that they have made some progress in this area while acknowledging efforts of North Macedonia and Albania have made to fulfil conditions for opening negotiations. Apart from the ongoing Bulgarian veto, the stalled process of normalisation of relations in the region is the other sore point highlighted in the reports.

This draws the following questions: How does the 2021 Enlargement Package support the building of a stronger Europe? What are the incentives offered to the Western Balkans through this Package? Does the current toolkit possess enough tools to deal with regional’s sensitive, yet complex issues while addressing the Fundamentals?


As this issue remains highly relevant everyday life of citizens, all while being very detailed and complex, the aim of the event is to gather relevant experts who could untangle what has been done so far in these areas and what remains to be done to make sure that the 2021 Enlargement Package is implemented effectively and efficiently. To get multi-layered answers to the problem, the panellists from think tanks from the countries of Western Balkan will give their inputs at this event organised jointly by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

The 2021 Enlargement Package will be presented by Maciej Popowski, Acting Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, followed by 5-minute reactions from:

Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of Governing Board, European Policy Centre (CEP), Belgrade
– Haris Ćutahija, Researcher, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI BH), Sarajevo
– Marko Sošić, Policy Analyst, Institute Alternative (IA), Podgorica
– Arbëresha Loxha Stublla, Executive Director and Senior Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), Pristina
– Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Tirana
– Ardita Abazi Imeri, Programme Coordinator, European Policy Institute (EPI), Skopje

Moderator: Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director

After that, an open discussion with the audience will be held.


The event will take place online, and it will be in English. You can register for the event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ND11k8yaQw657Z85jwIl-w

Participants will be able to ask questions either by raising a virtual hand, after which they will be turned on with a camera and microphone, or by leaving comments or using the Q&A option, and after reactions, the moderator will read these questions.