Lessons learned from Public Administration Reform in the Neighbourhood East

The Eastern Neighbourhood is a priority region for the EU´s external action within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) to foster stabilisation, security and prosperity. Modern and efficient administrations are pivotal to reach these objectives. 

Regarding the modernization of the state, the six partner countries in the EU´s Eastern Partnership (EaP) – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – share similar challenges as they inherited the Soviet administration system after the fall of the USSR. Given this common background, the Capacity4Change (C4C) event on 17th of May provided an opportunity for exchange among practitioners on successful approaches of Public Administration Reforms (PAR) in the region. The aim behind these reforms is to make administrative structures more transparent, more efficient and more responsive to citizens’ needs.

Towards an effective, transparent and citizen-oriented public administration

The event at the GIZ Representation thus provided the opportunity to discuss regional cooperation examples and projects as well as the question what lessons can be learned from a regional PAR approach. Beneficiaries from Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine shared their experiences together with representatives from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Commission, GIZ and SIGMA. The latter – a joint initiative of the OECD and the EU – stands for Support for Improvement in Governance and Management and joined GIZ as partner of the event.

The timing was well chosen: The C4C took place in the context of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). Nicholas Cendrowicz, Deputy Head of Unit of the Unit C1 - Georgia, Moldova and Neighbourhood Cross-Border Cooperation in the European Commission´s DG NEAR, described the Eastern Partnership as a community of values which all members share. For him Public Administration Reforms are the basis for all reforms and EU, Member States and Partner countries can all learn together in that field.

Dirk Schattschneider, Head of the Division Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe and South Caucasus at the BMZ highlighted in his key note speech the German activities and commitment for the region. He announced, that Germany would use its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2020 to raise the profile of the Eastern Partnership. He emphasized that support in the areas of economic development, decentralization and technical and vocational training (TVET) should be further provided and upscaled.

Supporting reforms through fitting projects

Examples of the German engagement were then presented by Kristin Hentschel from GIZ. She is Head of the “Eastern Partnership Regional Fund for Public Administration Reform“ which supports the countries in the region in their endeavours to implement reforms together with local cooperation partners. As all countries are different in their setting and PAR approach, different topics and activities are needed. That is why the fund supports small projects being linked to bigger bilateral projects.

Beneficiaries of the Fund explained some of these projects and expressed their ideas on how to make PAR more successful. For example Givi Mikanadze, Secretary General of the Georgian Parliamentary Administration and Ketevan Chemia, Interparliamentary Relations Unit Chief Specialist of the Georgian Parliament: They showcased how the parliamentary staff in Georgia enhanced capacities as well as strengthened cooperation with selected parliaments in the EU thanks to the project activities. Other insights were shared by Zoryana Makarukha, a Government Official from Ukraine, who took part in a tailored internship programme to visit peer institutions in the EU and Maia Dvalishvili, First Deputy Head of the Georgian Civil Service Bureau, which was supported in establishing a professional development system for Georgian Civil servants.

Challenges and opportunities raised on the panel

The presentations were then followed by a panel discussion on challenges and opportunities, moderated by Bianca Brétéché from OECD SIGMA.

Inma Perez-Rocha, Programme Officer at the Centre of Thematic Expertise on PAR at DG NEAR underlined the importance of regional cooperation and reminded the audience that differentiation between the countries remains key. Bianca Brétéché agreed that the “one size fits all” approach as well as the lack of involvement of Civil Society can be considered as mistakes which were made in the past.

Focusing on existing challenges, Javier Fuentes Leja from the European External Action Service (EEAS) underlined, that it is still difficult to measure the implementation rate of PAR as legal frameworks don´t necessarily translate the enforcement of these laws. For him, the future of PAR in the EaP lies in e-governance approaches and an increased engagement with civil society. Ara Khzmalyan, a consultant from Armenia, added, that once laws are passed one can sometimes witness a lack of engagement from politicians as well as citizens to really enforce them. He explained that after last year´s institutional change in Armenia a lot of experienced civil servants left the institutions and with them their institutional memory. He called for more awareness for existing reforms to deepen trust and support for more PAR engagement. Martins Krievins, Senior Policy Advisor at OECD SIGMA and his colleague Brétéché lined out that the incentives for states in the EaP to implement PAR are much lower than they were for the EU enlargement countries and that further information, communication and resources on and for implementing reforms are needed. 

Perez-Rocha concluded by calling for more creativity in the PAR processes, which gives more ownerships to the beneficiary countries, increases the rate of implementation and capacity building and includes the citizens in the reforms to ensure their full support in the future.

Left to right: Bianca Brétéché, Anne Bercio, Javier Fuentes Leja, Inma Perez-Rocha, Martins Krievins, Ara Khzmalyan
Dirk Schattschneider, BMZ
The participants in the GIZ Representation

Capacity4Change is an event series in Brussels organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with selected partner institutions and organisations. C4C aims to enrich Brussel’s policy debate with practical know-how and implementation experiences. It features innovative approaches, challenging analyses, interesting publications and thought-provoking ideas.