The fifth meeting of the National Working Group (NWG) for Public Administration Reform (PAR) in BiH

On the Zoom platform, 22/7/2020 the fifth meeting of the National Working Group (NWG*) for Public Administration Reform (PAR) in BiH was held. This was the first meeting of the working group in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the new WeBER2.0 project. At the meeting, Mahir Sijamija, VPI BH Project Officer, announced and presented the new program of small grants for civil society organizations. After that, Anida Šabanović, director of VPI BH and Haris Ćutahija, researcher of VPI BH, held a presentation on the topic “European consultations with citizens: introduction and presentation of methods”. The meeting ended with a discussion on the implementation and priorities of public administration reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the status and activities of civil society organizations involved.

The event brought together representatives of civil society, as well as experts in the field of public administration reform.

*NWG is a national consultative mechanism between representatives of civil society and relevant state authorities in creation and monitoring of the PAR process in Western Balkan countries. NWGs were established in each of these countries as a part of a wider regional WeBER platform.

Germany takes over EU Council presidency: Joint forces towards recovery

Photo: Illustration/FPI BH

By Hata Kujraković i Mahir Sijamija

The Federal Republic of Germany, as one of the most important partners of Bosnia and Herzegovina, assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1, 2020 with the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery”. Germany, for which this is the 13th EU Council presidency, adopted a program in which the focus was placed on the economic and social recovery from the consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program focuses on crisis management and virus prevention, and emphasizes the need for cooperation within the EU as well as internationally. Some of the key priorities of the Germany’s presidency are an inclusive growth strategy, stronger solidarity and a sustainable economy.

Germany as a leader of change in the Union

From the program framework of the presidency, we see the commitment of Germany to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic that befell the EU, which is a phenomenon that emerged on the postulates of the common market, economy, freedom and tolerance. This refers to a huge financial redistribution, which should amount to 1.85 billion euros. It is an unprecedented act of solidarity, designed to ensure the EU’s continued existence. ” It must now be our common goal to master the crisis jointly, sustainably and with a view to the future and this is precisely what the guiding principle of our Presidency is to be,” Angela Merkel announced, Deutsche Welle. reports.

Climate change, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, digital transformation and Brexit

In addition to overcoming the long-term effects of the crisis, the program also focuses on an additional five areas that include a stronger, fair, sustainable Europe, as well as a Europe of security and common values ​​and a strong Europe in the world. Simultaneously, Germany’s presidency will be focused on improving cohesion within the EU, as well as on joint external action. In order for the EU to emerge stronger and sustainable from the crisis, the economy needs a boost, which means a comprehensive joint package for economic and social recovery that includes a fund for reconstruction and an appropriate adjustment of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Another goal is to improve Europe’s crisis management capacity. This includes dealing with the issues such as climate change, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, digital transformation, and redefining relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit, as well as with China. The issue of migration, the Green Deal, along with the Conference on the Future of Europe will dominate the last phase of the Germany’s presidency. Based on the Commission’s proposals, Germany is pushing for a reform of the Common European Asylum System in order to create a fair, operational, efficient and crisis-proof system.

Relations with the Western Balkans and BiH

The Zagreb Summit was held in May this year, as the crown of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. All things considered, just holding the Summit in the world’s biggest crisis since the 2008 financial crash is a success. As we wrote in the last blog, it is clear that “this Summit will not have the same significance as the Zagreb Summit in 2000 or the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003”, and that the presidency of the Republic of Croatia has been disrupted, because its energy invested in organization of the summit was outshined by the outbreak of COVID – 19 pandemic.

The program prepared by Germany emphasized that rapprochement with the European Union is in the interest of the Western Balkans, as well as in the strategic interest of the EU and that the EU has a special responsibility to the Western Balkans, and its southern and eastern neighbors. “We want to ensure that the EU remains able to act and work in partnership with others and on the basis of clear rules,” Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to BiH Margret Uebber wrote in her blog. In the context of the borders for the region of the Western Balkans, it is noted that no region in the world is closer to the EU than the six countries of the Western Balkans, and that the EU and the Western Balkan countries are bound by close interpersonal relations. Additionally, HE Ms. Uebber emphasized the importance of the countries of the Western Balkans to be involved in responding to the crisis, highlighting that the EU allocated funds in the amount of EUR 80.5 million for BiH . which isa strong sign of solidarity and connection.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic posed limits to many activities, HE Ms. Ambassador Uebber believes that progress has been made in the EU policy towards the Western Balkans during the Croatian presidency, citing the decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, and the 3.3 billion-euro aid package presented by the EU Commission for the Western Balkans in late April. German Ambassador also noted that the migration of young people, in addition to the economic consequences of the pandemic, is a special challenge that the countries of the Western Balkans will face in the coming period.

The program also states that Germany will use the presidency of the EU Council to connect decision-makers and other relevant actors in the Western Balkans, encourage dialogue on demographic development and continue working on creating better prospects for young people. The German government announced earlier that they would support the Western Balkans with an additional 10 million euros, sending a clear signal that “the future of the Western Balkans is in the EU!”

Together for the recovery of the Western Balkans with Europe

From the presidency program, we see the commitment of Germany to work on the economic recovery of the Union. The European Union is based on the values of the common market, economy, security, freedom and tolerance. Germany, as one of the leaders of the Union, is emphasizing a return to these values, due to increased nationalism, border closures and similar issues due to the COVID – 19 pandemic.

The EU has recently been facing major challenges of internal consolidation, so French President Macron announced reforms of the Union and the enlargement impasse even before the pandemic. The presidency of the Council of the EU will be used by Germany to return the Union to the initial path of its development and prosperity. Although the ability of the large bureaucratic apparatus to work at full capacity has been reduced, as there has been a reduction in physical meetings of EU leaders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany has set a clear goal – a large number of decisions need to be made jointly in order to overcome the crisis.

The program can be read on the following link.

The Western Balkans and the COVID-19: Effects on good governance, rule of law and civil society

This policy brief underscores outstanding issues that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis with possible long-term consequences on the functioning of democracy and rule of law in the six countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. This paper specifically addresses the impact of the crisis on the functioning of democratic institutions, the judiciary, fundamental rights and freedoms, transparency, civil society, and the media, and continues to assess its impact on the social and political climates in each country of the region. The report identifies country-specific as well as common issues that should be monitored closely going forward.

Download the brief here. (Available only in English)

Opening governments in times of lockdown

Lessons learned for citizens-oriented administrations from the COVID-19 crisis in the Western Balkans

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has spurred a myriad of measures from governments in the Western Balkans to better inform their citizens and provide services in emergency circumstances. Yet, responses to the pandemic and the institution of unprecedented lockdown measures have introduced various challenges to already fragile standards of transparency, accountability and rule of law, as well as have exposed shortcomings in the functioning of public administrations, in the Western Balkans.

The crisis is increasingly being used as an excuse to backslide on previously achieved progress. The way emergency measures were adopted and enforced, and how citizens were informed, require close scrutiny, so as to ensure that the practices developed during this crisis do not become the “new normal”.

This policy brief, developed as part of the regional WeBER initiative, examines the approaches of public administrations in the Western Balkans to the COVID-19 crisis. It looks at the quality of communication and implementation of the measures taken by the governments of the Western Balkans to respond to the pandemic. It argues that simple and streamlined communication and transparency in the implementation of such measures are equally, if not more, important in times of emergencies and crises, when citizens are more vulnerable in their relationship with the government than in normal times. Based on an overview of positive and negative practices exhibited in the region, this brief offers a set of recommendations for governments to consider as soon as possible, in order to ensure maximum learning from this experience. There is a two-fold benefit to considering these recommendations. Firstly, they may prove valuable in the event of a second wave of pandemic (as is projected by epidemiologists), which might require the re-imposition of some measures in the coming months. Secondly, certain precautionary measures are likely to remain in place even after lockdowns and restrictions across the region are ended, with the implementation of these recommendations potentially of benefit to citizens in the near future as well.

Download the policy brief here.

Analysis “Energy Geopolitics in the Balkans – Geopolitics and European integration of the Western Balkans”

The Western Balkans remain poorly connected in terms of infrastructure, with an atomized energy market, burdened with political instability, which negatively affects the region’s energy security.

There is a lack of clear and enforceable measures regarding the preparedness of the energy systems of the countries of the region to
respond to potential shocks in case of interruption of gas supply or any other energy shock.

External actors, most notably Russia and China, exploit the clientelist approach of political elites in the region thus opposing the implementation of the goals of the Energy Community in the Western Balkan countries.

You can download the analysis here.

Sead Turčalo, april 2020.

Analysis Presentation “Energy Geopolitics in the Balkans – Geopolitics and European integration of the Western Balkans”

Foreign Policy Initiative BH and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, organized the presentation of the political analysis “Energy Geopolitics in the Balkans – Geopolitics and European Integration of the Western Balkans” by prof. dr. Seada Turčalo in a somewhat different way due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The presentation was filmed at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo in video format of TV show, where the host talked to our panelists who gave their review of the author’s manuscript. The video content that you can watch here will also be distributed to TV stations and other electronic media.

Apart from the author, the presentation was attended by prof. dr. Ešref Kenan Rašidagić from the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo, Amer Kapetanović from the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and doc. dr. Klarić Sanela Member of the House of Representatives of the FBiH Parliament who spoke on behalf of Green Council.

The energy sector and energy policies and strategies may be analyzed through different approaches: economic, environmental, geopolitical and other approaches. This analysis will focus on the geopolitical approach. In this approach, countries and actors that could be referred to as unitary or unitary-like actors have a decisive influence in the energy sector. The geopolitical approach to energy issues, or energy geopolitics, is inextricably associated with energy security, which within this approach is the primary goal of any energy policy; unlike the economic or environmental approaches, which favor issues of sustainability, competitiveness, etc.

The geopolitical approach primarily observes the geographical position of a particular country or region from the perspective of the location of energy resources it needs: analyzing their accessibility, the actors that control those resources, their price, existing and alternative transport routes, relations in the regional and global markets, market mechanisms and the regulatory framework that may influence the behavior of actors, availability and management of own energy resources, as well as political decisions and the manner and framework within which they are made.

The analysis is available here.

Governments in the WB still do not provide adequate information on their achievements

First results from PAR Monitor 2019/2020

In the policy development area, PAR Monitor 2019/2020 starts by focusing on the information available to citizens on governmental performance. Evidence shows that citizens of the Western Balkan countries, with the exception of BiH and to a lesser extent North Macedonia, do not have access to basic information about the work of their governments; the level of detail provided in annual governmental work reports is generally substandard to allow proper public scrutiny. Even weaker practices are shown in how understandable and result-oriented these reports are, as well as how regularly the public is informed on the implementation of central planning documents. Continue reading “Governments in the WB still do not provide adequate information on their achievements”

Proactive informing from public authorities is still at a low level in the Western Balkans

First results from PAR Monitor 2019/2020

Worrying trends in the limited proactive information made available to citizens of the Western Balkans by their governments, indicated in the baseline PAR Monitor 2017/2018, have shown little change. Although some online information is easily accessible in most of the countries included, limited open data practices and transparency in annual reporting and budgets, as well as limited citizen-friendliness in the presentation of information, are still common. Continue reading “Proactive informing from public authorities is still at a low level in the Western Balkans”

FPI BH campaign – “EU and BiH?”

 

Foreign Policy Initiative BH last month organized a social network campaign “EU and BiH?” which aimed to actualize the European integration process in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the process is rarely mentioned in public space since BiH got the Opinion on the EU membership application.

“EU and BiH?” campaign consisted of promoting 29 video messages on social networks pages/profiles of Foreign Policy Initiative BH’s pages/profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in which the public figures and representatives of BiH and EU institutions, diplomatic corps, international organizations, NGOs,  academic society and media talked about the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The campaign started with the video of Ambassador Johann Sattler (Head of the EU Delegation and EUSR) on 10th April and was finished on 12th May, with Anida Šabanović, Director of Foreign Policy Initiative BH. Three ambassadors of the EU member states took part in the campaign – Germany, Austria and Sweden. BiH institutions were also represented – by a member of BiH Presidency (Željko Komšić), Foreign Affairs Minister (Bisera Turković), four MPs in the Parliamentary Assembly (Saša Magazinović, Nikola Lovrinović, Šemsudin Mehmedović and Branislav Borenović), Public Administration Reform Office Coordinator (Dragan Ćuzulan) and FBiH Government Office for European Integration Director (Vjekoslav Čamber). We also had video messages from Drahoslav Stefanek – Special Representative for Migrations and Refugees of Council of Europe, Amer Kapetanović from Regional Cooperation Council and Nermin Kujović from Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Adnan Ćerimagić, Faruk Hadžić and Denis Čarkadžić, analysts, also took part in the campaign. Civil society was represented by Leila Bičakčić (CIN), Jasmina Pašalić (FPI BH), Adis Muhović (CPU), Ismail Šehić (BRAVO Foundation) and Rasim Ibrahimagić (Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of BiH). Academic society was represented by Nedžma Džananović Miraščija (University of Sarajevo) and Dženeta Karabegović (University of Salzburg). Representing the media, we had video messages of Brankica Smiljanić (Al Jazeera) and Senad Dorić (HEMA TV). And finally, we also had a video of Amna Popovac, entrepreneuress and activist.

You can watch the video messages below:

 

 

 

FOREIGN POLICIES OF THE WB6 – ALIGNMENT WITH THE EU?

Foreign Policy Initiative BH and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, on Saturday, 25 April 2020 organized an online presentation of political analysis “FOREIGN POLICIES OF THE WB6 – ALIGNMENT WITH THE EU?” by prof. dr. Nedžma Džananović Miraščija.

During the presentation, Nedžma Džananović Miraščija stated that all six Western Balkans countries have very clearly made EU membership one of their foreign policy priorities, and therefore the alignment and approximation obligation does not seem particularly demanding or incompatible with the established national interests in any of these countries. It also appears quite logical to continue building diplomatic and bureaucratic capacities for EU membership, since this is a major prerequisite for accessing the rights and meeting the obligations that EU membership entails. The European Union uses these conditions to test the political and symbolic commitment of these countries; their cooperativeness in terms of coordination and joint action; as well as their willingness to make continuous investment in the development of specific diplomatic and bureaucratic capacities to deal with the broader international context.

The main objective of this analysis was to determine whether, to what extent, and in what way the WB6 countries have been fulfilling this portion of the political criteria, and to identify the factors and actors that influence the greater or lesser degree of the alignment achieved. Alignment with EU foreign policy in specific international circumstances is also a clear indicator of whether the declared foreign policy priorities of the WB6 countries are genuine, while illustrating at the same time the transformative and structural foreign policy power of the EU in this area, in particular in comparison to other actors present in the region in different capacities.

Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Khaldoun Sinno, at the opening said that the EU treats the region differently than the other countries because that see the Wester Balkan countries as part of the EU in future. “However, on that path we have expectations: EU needs to see the motivation from leaders to deliver. There is no doubt that EU is here to help”, concluded Sinno.

At the panel which was held as a part of the conference, Jasmin Hasić, advisor in Ministry of Foreign Affairs BiH and one of the panelists, stated that we need to continue communicating on this matter. “Foreign affairs issues in BiH academically and in practical-institutional terms have somewhat subsided and dialogue is needed to revive them”, concluded Hasić. Adi Ćerimagić of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) said that our positive awareness of change is very strong “The historically important message of a few days ago is that the Western Balkan countries can do a lot together, an example being the letter from the foreign ministers of the countries they sent to the EU. This is one of the positive changes and awareness of joint action.” Senada Šelo-Šabić from the Institute for Development and International Relations (Zagreb, Croatia) stated that we are the creators of our own happiness and life. “Once we have that awareness, then it will be easier to understand and change the world,” Šelo-Šabić concluded.

The presentation was moderated by Hana Sokolović, reporter and host at N1 television. Representatives from other countries also gave their comments: Sena Marić, project manager and senior researcher at the European Policy Centre (CEP) Belgrade, prof. dr. Gordana Djurovic – President of the Montenegrin Pan-European Union and former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Integration of Montenegro, Ambassador Andrej Lepavcov, Former Ambassador of Northern Macedonia to the European Union, Ambassador Osman Topcagic, President of the Pan-European Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former BiH Ambassador to the EU and Great Britain, former director of DEI.

The presentation was attended by representatives of civil society organizations, academic community, relevant institutions, resident embassies and missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the media.

The analysis is available here.