Open regional funds for South-East Europe – promotion of EU integration through regional cooperation

Project description

Title: Open regional funds for South-East Europe – promotion of EU integration through regional cooperation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Overall term: 2012 to 2018

ORF FEUI. Steering Committee discussion. © GIZ

Context
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have made EU membership one of their top priorities. While they are each at different stages in the accession process, they face many common challenges when it comes to reforming their economic and political systems and public administrations. The European Commission has made regional cooperation in South-East Europe a key condition for potential EU accession.

The last few years have seen an improvement in regional cooperation with regard to economic and social development, infrastructure, energy, justice, and media and security cooperation. The institutions responsible for coordinating and steering the EU accession process have one thing in common: their staff are partly reluctant or lack the opportunities to engage in collaborative learning at regional level with a view to tackling the demands placed on them.

Objective
The national institutions responsible for coordinating and steering the EU accession process use regional dialogue platforms to engage in mutual learning. They form regional networks and jointly discuss good practices. They are accelerating the EU accession process by meeting prescribed standards. Stability is increased in the region, the potential for conflict is reduced, and working relationships are established and maintained in a spirit of trust.

Approach
The project team coordinates, advises and supports the network of ministries for foreign affairs. It works with high-level ministerial representatives to devise regional learning and dialogue platforms which reflect the needs of the ministries. Based on jointly agreed profiles, the foreign ministries and the project team together select individuals to participate in the learning and dialogue platforms.

The project team advises and assists the existing network of EU integration authorities in the various countries with regard to their steering and coordination tasks. Regional learning platforms address these tasks as well as individual chapters of the EU acquis. The acquis constitutes the entire body of common legislation applicable in the European Union.
The EU is using the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to provide funding for ‘enlargement countries’. This funding is dependent upon the progress achieved by beneficiary countries and their needs, both of which are determined on the basis of the Commission’s evaluations and annual strategy documents. The project team is assisting the countries to set up a new network of IPA structures. The aim of the network is to promote the sharing of knowledge and experience with regard to strategic planning, institutional conditions, decentralised financial management and monitoring and evaluation procedures. Its focus is on activities relating to the strategic programming and monitoring of EU accession activities, which lay the foundation for the management of IPA funding.

Results
EU integration authorities and EU directorates within the ministries for foreign affairs are working on issues in the accession process which affect all countries in equal measure. One example is the preparation and harmonisation of negotiating positions in cooperation with line ministries. This enables the relevant institutions to perform their role in the accession process more effectively.

Staff at the integration authorities and EU directorates are better acquainted with the requirements of EU accession, having attended training on key EU policies. These include requirements for implementing the Stabilisation and Association Agreements, which they are now able to deal with better in their work. Within the networks, partners discuss the solutions being applied in neighbouring countries, including efficient options for translating the acquis into the official national languages in question. Good work contacts have evolved between similar institutions and officials, and have been intensified at different levels.

ORF FEUI. Steering Committee discussion. © GIZ