Promoting EU integration in the Western Balkans

Project description

Title: Promotion of EU Integration
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: EU accession countries in South-East Europe
Lead executing agency: Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)
Overall term: 2012 to 2023

Context

The countries of South-East Europe have identified membership in the European Union as their top political priority. The region’s countries have made differing progress in the accession process. However, they face numerous common challenges, above all regarding economic and political reform, and reforming public administration.

The European Commission has declared regional cooperation in South-East Europe to be a key condition for joining the EU. The countries are now facing new challenges, since the European Commission has updated the process for the accession of new countries and refined the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). This is a funding instrument by which the EU supports the implementation of reforms in the accession countries.

In-depth regional cooperation has already achieved considerable progress in many different areas. Nevertheless, the need to improve the knowledge and abilities of the responsible authorities remains. This applies in particular to coordinating and controlling the EU accession process through regional learning and  the application of best practices in the individual countries.

Objective

Regional cooperation among the six Western Balkan countries  in the EU accession process is consolidated in selected domains of action.

Approach

The project is coordinating, advising and supporting three regional networks: the Network of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the EU integration authorities and the IPA structures. These networks bring together specialised colleagues from six national institutions to discuss and decide on important project measures. A fourth regional network of the Western Balkan states is already being planned. This network should consist of the secretariats of the parliamentary committees, who deal with topics related to the EU accession process.

The project is supporting the national institutions in implementing joint approaches for planning and deploying the pre-accession assistance instrument. The project also encourages national institutions to jointly address challenges posed by the new EU accession process. It also promotes establishing joint positions in relevant fields to strengthen regional cooperation. An interdisciplinary approach and promoting gender equality form the foundation for developing joint activities.

Results

Through close cooperation with representatives from partner organisations, the project has created platforms for regional learning and regional dialogue. These reflect the requirements of the ministries of foreign affairs, EU integration authorities and the IPA structures. The exchange of experiences and work in the regional networks help the countries provide mutual support, establish synergies and thus accelerate the accession process. The establishment of trustful relationships and a growing understanding of shared challenges contribute to stability and reconciliation in the region.

The increased visibility of the efforts of the Berlin Process leads to greater transparency in policy-making by making the Process easier to understand and easier for the general public to follow. To support economic development in the Western Balkans and to promote prosperity, recommendations were developed for reform that places an emphasis on vocational training for digitalisation processes.

Last but not least, the project promoted the Regional Youth Cooperation Office’s (RYCO) capacity for action.

Last update: February 2021

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