Event announcement: Third Meeting of the WeBER Platform

The Third Meeting of the WeBER Platform which will take place on November 1 – 2 in Hotel Holiday Inn in Skopje.

The third meeting of the Platform will serve for civil society consultations with the national authorities and regional and EU actors on Public Administration Reform (PAR), for further regional consultations on the monitoring work performed within the WeBER project. The sustainability prospects of the WeBER Platform and PAR Monitor will also be discussed.

Western Balkans Enabling Project for Civil Society Monitoring of Public Administration Reform – WeBER – is a three-year project financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  You can find more about project here.

WeBER Advocacy Event: PAR and EU enlargement – The Balkan civil society perspective

The panel discussion “Public administration reform and EU enlargement – The Balkan civil society perspective” was held on Tuesday, 3rd October 2017 at European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels.

This event, organised as part of the WeBER project, gathered a distinguished panel of experts: Head of Unit at DG NEAR of the European Commission Mr. Bernard Brunet, Macedonian Minister of Information Society and Administration Mr. Damjan Manchevski, CEP Programme Director (and WeBER Project Manager) Milena Lazarevic and Director of the Group for Legal and Political Studies (WeBER partner in Kosovo) Mr. Fisnik Korenica. Corina Stratulat, Senior Policy Analyst from European Policy Centre (EPC) moderated the discussion.

The panel assessed the role of civil society in Public Administration Reform (PAR) in the Balkans, as well as the importance of openness and transparency of the policy dialogue on PAR at all levels. WeBER representatives at the event spoke about the key achievements of the Project, especially with regards to capacity building and cooperation among civil society organisations (CSOs) in the field of PAR across the region.

Highlights of the discussion

Bernard Brunet, Head of Unit Thematic Support, Monitoring and Evaluation (DG NEAR, European Commission), spoke about the importance of inclusive policymaking. He also emphasised the importance of a structured dialogue between external stakeholders and authorities, as well as of consulting CSO before taking decisions. Consultations with civil society promote EU values, such as openness and inclusiveness”, Brunet highlighted.

The Macedonian Minister of Information Society and Administration Damjan Manchevski spoke about the commitment of the new Macedonian Government to the dialogue with civil society. He stressed: “We need the CSOs to criticise us, but also to follow us into the PAR process.”

He shared Macedonia’s experience in the development of the new PAR strategy and spoke about the recent and ongoing improvements in the openness of the policy process. He explained that fewer draft laws are now sent into the parliamentary deliberation procedure using the urgent proceedings, which limit the discussion and ordinarily result in little or no public consultation. Manchevski spoke of his new concept of government in Macedonia – Gov. 2.0, in which the government opens policy problems to wide discussions and contributions of the society.

In his words, the information technology is of great help in facilitating participation and transparency of the government. “It takes more time, but in the end, we have higher quality policies,” Manchevski said.

Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director and WeBER Project Manager, said that to establish themselves as credible interlocutors, CSOs need to rely on evidence and present proposals of substance to the governments.

She also spoke about European Commissions’ role in helping the administrations in the Balkan countries comply with the EU requirements in relation to public participation and civil society inclusion in PAR.

“We need the administrations in the Balkans to learn and to adapt during the pre-accession period, with the help of the Commission,” stated Lazarević, adding that “administrations need to develop transparency and good service delivery, in order to get closer to the citizens.”

Ms. Lazarevic presented the main achievements of the WeBER project related to civil society capacity building in the area of public administration reform. She also spoke about the regional consultative mechanisms established as part of the Project, emphasising that “the WeBER Platform now gathers 22 strong CSOs within the regional level platform, and over 100 local CSOs as members of the National Working Groups on PAR in the 6 Western Balkan countries. It is our task and a challenge to build the capacity of the civil society in this highly complex area,”  she added.

She concluded by highlighting the importance of proper information of the wider public, because the entire society needs to understand the value of public administration reform.

Referring further to the WeBER project, Mr. Fisnik Korenica, Director of GLPS from Prishtina, highlighted the importance of WeBER’s work, stating that “united under WeBER, civil society is stronger and has a voice in Brussels. Now DG NEAR knows us and we are better able to keep each other informed in this area,” Korenica concluded.

As part of the discussion, the participants made a number of suggestions and proposals for opening and increasing the transparency of the PAR policy dialogue between the European Commission and the Balkan governments.

In the aftermath of the panel, European Policy Centre (EPC – WeBER partner in Brussels) published a policy brief, co-authored by Milena Lazarevic and Corina Stratulat, making the case for a more forceful and more structured approach towards the involvement of civil society in the work of the PAR Special Groups in all countries aspiring to join the European Union. The policy brief can be accessed here.

Western Balkans Enabling Project for Civil Society Monitoring of Public Administration Reform –WeBER – is a three-year project funded by the European Union and co-funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

For more information, please visit www.par-monitor.org

Western Balkan Think Tankers and Civil Servants on a Study Tour to Slovakia and Czech Republic

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 Bratislava (Slovak Republic) and Prague (Czech Republic), as part of the project “Raising capacities and advocacy potential towards more substantive involvement of CSOs of V4 and WB6”. The project is implemented by TEN and supported by the Visegrad Fund.

Participants had the chance to visit both the civil society organisations and the state institutions in charge of horizontal policymaking in the Slovak Republic and Czech Republic. In Slovakia, the visit was hosted by the partner organisation Slovak Governance Institute, whose director and senior researcher Mr. Ctibor Košťál welcomed the participants and introduced them into the Slovak context and presented the successful work of the SGI in Slovakia. The government’s experience in cooperating with CSOs was presented by Ms. Jana Kviečinská from the Office of the Minister, Ministry of Justice; Ms. Viktória Mlynarčíková from the Head of Development Cooperation Unit, International Relations Section, Ministry of Finance and Mr. Milan Andrejkovič from the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government for the Development of Civil Society. The practice of the civil sector was presented by Mr. Ján Hargaš from Slovensko.digital, Mr. Martin Kollárik from the Slovak Governance Institute, Mr. Pavel Hrica from the Pontis Foundation and Mr. Matej Hruška from the Stop Corruption Foundation. The interactive discussions served for gaining insights and ideas for improving the quality of the policymaking systems both in WB6 countries and in the Slovak Republic.

In the Czech Republic, the participants were welcomed by Mr. Michal Vit from the partner organisation EUROPEUM, who provided the introduction into the Czech context and presented their previous initiatives, projects and cooperation with the Western Balkan think tanks. The focus of the visit was placed on a very successful case of the Reconstruction of the State initiative, which was presented by Mr. Vít Šimral and Mr. Lukáš Kraus. In addition, participants had the chance to learn about a local initiative for better urban planning from Mr. Michal Volf from the NGO Břevnov, whereas the government experience was shared by Ms. Radana Kubová, Office of Goverment, and Mr. Jan Outlý.

The study tour focused on learning from the V4 partners about their legal and institutional framework for CSO involvement in policymaking, its enforcement, practical problems and obstacles for CSOs to effectively participate in policymaking. Slovak and Czech NGOs and state institutions shared their best practices, whereas a special focus was dedicated to the effects of EU membership to the quality of policymaking in Slovakia and Czechia and CSOs’ contribution in this respect. The study tour represented a significant opportunity to exchange views and experiences both among the colleagues from the WB6 with the civil servants as well as among the TEN representatives. In particular, the participation of civil servants, representatives of respective policymaking institutions from the Western Balkans, was aimed to raise knowledge of these individuals on comparative policymaking systems and contribute to cooperation between the state and civil institutions.

 

Experiences of Polish and Hungarian CSOs in the Policymaking Process Shared in Budva, MNE

A two-day regional training “CSO Participation in the Policymaking: Experiences from Poland and Hungary” was held in Budva, Montenegro, on 12-13 May 2017. The training, which was organised by CEP, gathered member organisations of the TEN network and partners from Poland and Hungary, as well as a representative of ReSPA (Regional School for Public Administration). Participants had the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into the features of Poland and Hungary’s policymaking systems, practical considerations, experiences of CSO involvement in the policymaking, and other good practices regarding the participation of civil society in these countries. The training was interactive and provided the platform for discussion and sharing views among the participant organisations.

Mr Maciej Kolczyński, the expert at IDEA foundation from Poland, talked about the policymaking practices and CSO participation in Poland, presenting the “Citizens for Democracy” case. He explained that CSOs in Poland suffer from ad-hoc, project-based funding which threatens their sustainability and influence.

Mr Andrew Cartwright, Research Fellow at the Center for Policy Studies of the CEU, introduced participants into the Hungary’s policymaking systems and gave insight into the best practice examples of involvement of Hungarian CSOs in policymaking processes. Among other experiences, he shared that the NUTS transformation in Hungary was artificial and made a negative impact on the CSO cooperation and capacities to influence policymaking.

The training was part of the project Raising capacities and advocacy potential towards the more substantive involvement of CSOs of V4 and WB6, implemented by TEN network and supported by the Visegrad Fund.

Seminar for CSOs “Effective monitoring of public policies”

European Policy Centre, within the framework of the WeBER project, and in cooperation with the Visegrad Fund, organized a seminar “Effective monitoring of public policies”. The seminar was held in Novi Sad, April 19-22.

The seminar discussed the Concept Papers of the National Working Group on Public Administration Reform (PAR) and the establishment of the National Working Group in Serbia (NRG). The NRG is a national consultative mechanism for civil society participation in dialogue with relevant state bodies on the design and monitoring of the PAR process in Serbia.

Sena Maric, CEP Senior Researcher, talked about the policy-making cycle, EU standards and examples of good practice in policy-making and policy co-ordination, and about civil society monitoring in the context of EU accession. Miloš Đinđić, CEP Senior Researcher, spoke about WeBER’s approach to the monitoring process in the case of the PAR. Corina Stratulat from EPC, partner organization within the WEBER project, talked about policy research and analysis and how Western-European think tank organizations work, as well as about communication with stakeholders in the area of ​​public policy monitoring. Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director, spoke about WEBER PAR Monitor methodology, indicators for monitoring the PAR, as well as the research and analytical methods of PAR Monitor methodology.

The Weber Project is funded by the European Union and co-financed by the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

SIGMA Seminars on PAR for Western Balkans CSO’s

A series of interactive seminars on SIGMA Principles of Public Administration were organised across the Western Balkans region in cooperation with SIGMA/OECD, as part of the WeBER project being implemented by the TEN.

A two-day seminar for Serbian CSO’s was held in Belgrade on 14th and 15th December 2016, gathering more than 30 CSOs from Serbia. Participants had the opportunity to learn from SIGMA experts about the Principles of Public Administration developed by SIGMA/OECD. They had the chance to see the premiere of multimedia presentations produced within the WeBER project, about the key reform areas these Principles cover. The aim of the seminar was to introduce SIGMA Principles of Public Administration to a wider group of CSOs coming from local communities from all around Serbia who are active in PAR related areas. The seminar was hosted by CEP. See the highlights here.

On 26 January 2017, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS) hosted a one-day seminar for the Civil Society Organisations in Kosovo. The CSOs had the chance to receive first-hand information with regards to SIGMA’s approach towards Public Administration Reform (PAR) process from the SIGMA Representative and Coordinator for Kosovo, Mr. Jesper Johnson, who was engaged as a lecturer during this seminar. See the highlights from Pristina here.

Seminar in Sarajevo was held on 30th and 31st January 2017 and more than 30 representatives of CSOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina had the opportunity to hear SIGMA experts Mr. Vehar and Mr. Tunyan on the framework of Principles of Public Administration, and to participate in workshops. The event was hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative Sarajevo. See the highlights here.

Institute alternative (IA) hosted the seminar in Podgorica on 1st February 2017. More than 40 civil society representatives had the opportunity to learn from SIGMA experts, Mr Timo Ligi and Mr Daniel Ivarsson about Principles of Public Administration, the work of SIGMA, and the key findings from the SIGMA’s Baseline and Monitoring reports for 2015 and 2016. See the highlights of the Podgorica seminar here.

 

“Achieving Excellence through Regional Cooperation”: CEPS WeB Position Paper presented

Working breakfast on the topic Achieving Excellence through Regional Cooperation was held on 24th November in Belgrade, gathering members of the Think for Europe Network (TEN) as well as distinguished experts from the Regional Environmental Center (REC) and the Center of Excellence in Finance (CEF). Participants discussed the added value of pursuing a regional approach and shared their experiences in regional networking. The aim of the event was to formulate new ideas for inspiring creation of a more constructive regional initiatives in the Western Balkans region. Additionally, the event served as an opportunity to present the first Position Paper of the newly created Centre for Excellence in Policymaking (CEPS WeB), established by six think-tank organisations from the Western Balkans, members of TEN. The discussion was moderated by Simonida Kacarska, Research Coordinator at the European Policy Institute (EPI).

Representing the Center of Excellence in Finance, prof. dr Mojmir Mrak explained the success of CEF and gave insight into the challenges of its 15-year-long functioning. He emphasised that the CEF is a knowledge hub for the South Eastern Europe region. Additional regional learning opportunities were exemplified by Igor Kostić, who represented the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe. He pointed out the fact that the regional approach could significantly contribute to the capacity development in the Western Balkan countries, as all countries have the same environmental problems.

Senior Researcher at CEP Sena Marić presented the CEPS WeB Position Paper, making a case for taking up regional approach in tackling and advocating for more evidence-based policymaking in the Western Balkans. She talked about the effect as well as the unused potential of the civil society organisations in pressuring for improved policymaking in the Western Balkan countries. She also added that legalistic administrative cultures in the Western Balkans are in need for more evidence to create better policymaking environments, while governments need to provide more data in order to enable quality policymaking and civil society monitoring.

This event was carried out in the framework of the project Centre of Expertise on Policymaking Systems in the Western Balkans-CEPS WeB, implemented by six partner organisations – TEN members: European Policy Centre – Belgrade,Institute Alternativa – Podgorica, European Policy Institute – Skopje, Foreign Policy Initiative – Sarajevo, Institute for Democracy and Mediation – Tirana, and Group for Legal and Political Studies – Pristina. The project is financed under the framework of the Regional Research Promotion Programme (RRPP). The programme is fully funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

WeBER Platform officially established!

The WeBER Platform was officially established on the occasion of the 9th Annual Conference of the Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA), on November 16, 2016 in Podgorica.

The Memorandum of Cooperation regarding the functioning of the WeBER Platform was signed by 22 civil society organizations (CSOs) from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

As the WeBER Platform provides a venue for consultation and evidence-based dialogue between the civil society, government representatives and international and regional organisations (European Commission, ReSPA, RCC etc.) onpublic administration reform implementation and monitoring, membership in the Platform will enable CSOs to take more active involvement in these processes at the regional level and in their respective countries. Also, the Platform will serve as a venue for exchange of experiences and good practices.

Prior to the signing ceremony, the Platform members discussed and adopted documents that will serve as guidelines for the Platform’s functioning and proceedings, and worked on further development of the PAR Monitor Methodology.

See full list of WeBER Platform members.