Presentation of the study “Foreign authoritarian influence in the Western Balkans”

On Tuesday, 15.09.2020., the Foreign Policy Initiative BH organized a presentation of the study “Foreign Authoritarian Influence in the Western Balkans” online through the Zoom platform.

The study is the result of the project “Understanding and Responding to the Influence of Foreign Actors”, which aims to understand the nature and the degree of authoritarian influence in the Western Balkans, starting with three countries: North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Significant knowledge is available on how Russia is trying to establish European and American political processes, but the influence of Russia and other superpowers (e.g. Turkey, Iran, China) in the Western Balkans, is less known and brought to attention. The aim of the project is to better understand, raise awareness and realize the impact of foreign actors in Eastern and Central Europe. This project aims to create tools that will enable detailed measurement of the influence of actors such as the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, as well as other authoritarian regimes.

In addition to the author, prof. dr. Damir Kapidžić from the Faculty of Political Science, University of Sarajevo and Strahinja Subotić, researcher at the Center for European Policies – CEP, participated in the presentation of the study.

The implementers of this project, in addition to the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, are: Political Capital (Budapest, Hungary); Societas Civilis Institute for Democracy (Skopje, North Macedonia); Center for Democratic Transition (Podgorica, Montenegro), with donor support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The analysis is only available in English and can be downloaded here.

Public perceptions of service delivery in the Western Balkans are on the rise

Results from the public perception survey on service delivery suggest that governments in the Western Balkans are striving towards digitalisation and citizen-oriented services.[1] This year’s surveys show that all of the countries in the region are either making progress or remain at the level of the first PAR Monitor 2017/2018.

Public perception points to a more citizen-oriented service delivery

Compared to the results of the previous PAR Monitor, Serbia and Albania record the most noticeable changes with regards to citizens’ perceived simplicity of dealing with public administration (Graph 1). In other words, there were respectively 23 and 18 percentage point increases in these two countries, followed by Montenegro at 14 percentage points.

Survey also show that roughly two thirds of citizens in the region feel that governments are moving towards digitalisation (69%). Apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where slightly below 50% of citizens perceive this trend, in all the other countries of the region, between 66 and 81% of citizens surveyed feel this way. At the regional level, citizens noted positive improvement in the time needed to obtain administrative services. This was especially so in Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro, where more than 60% citizens confirmed it has decreased.

It is also worth noting that 58% of citizens in the region claim to recognise governments’ efforts to simplify administrative procedures – more than in the previous PAR Monitor. As before, public administration in Kosovo takes first place according to perceptions, followed by Serbia.

The availability of e-services: more awareness, same levels of usage

The public is increasingly aware of e-services across the Western Balkan countries. Unlike the previous PAR Monitor, no country records below 50% of awareness, with as high as 74% of citizens in Albania (Graph 2). On the flip side, we find that a lot of citizens still do not use these services – a third of citizens in the region stated they had never used them. Additionally, with less than a third of citizens using them either rarely or just sometimes, many used them only occasionally. Notably, only 10% of citizens have used e-services often.

At the same time, surveys show that most citizens in every country (between 70 and 80%) report that e-services are easy to use. This resembles the results of PAR Monitor 2017/2018, in which approximately 80% of citizens surveyed in all countries included reported the ease of use of these services.

Bearing in mind the high awareness figures, a lack of information on e-services is unlikely to account for the low-level usage. More than two thirds of citizens who used e-services, more or less frequently, had little or no difficulties finalising services they requested. Nonetheless, in terms of public perceptions, there has been tangible improvement in citizen-oriented service delivery in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia. On the other hand, the situation in Kosovo and North Macedonia has mostly remained unchanged.

[1] As for the 2019/2020 PAR Monitor, public perception of the awareness of and usefulness of feedback mechanisms, and their availability to citizens, is measured with public perception surveys that were implemented in each of the Western Balkan countries in the same manner. Surveys were implemented in the period from 5 to 30 May 2020.

APPLY NOW – Call for Expression of Interest to CSOs interested in PAR monitoring

WeBER 2.0 – Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration is seeking project proposals for the implementation of the Small Grant Facility for support to civil society monitoring of public administration reform at local level. The Call for proposals is in the total amount of 225.000 EUR intended to support up to 30 grants, each worth up to 8000 EUR (7500 EUR on average), out of which 6 in Serbia, 6 in BiH, 5 in Albania, 5 in North Macedonia, 4 in Kosovo, and 4 in Montenegro. Duration of the awarded grants is between 6 and 12 months. WeBER 2.0 project is financed by the European Union (EU). The complete Call for Proposals and all relevant documents are available for download below:

Application package

Providers of administrative services need to regularly reveal the content of feedback by citizens

Brand-new public perception survey results indicate fewer citizen-friendly options for providing opinions on administrative services, compared to PAR Monitor 2017/2018. At the same time, public opinion regarding the involvement of citizens and civil society in monitoring services is clearly growing. When it comes to the availability of information on citizen feedback, websites of service providers are no better than before. Such information on received feedback is mostly absent from their online portals, even in its most basic form.

The public views feedback channels as harder to use but stronger effects of external monitoring of service delivery

Perception surveys indicate that around half of the Western Balkan population sees possibilities to give opinions on the quality of services. This perception grew for almost 20% since the PAR Monitor 2017/2018.[1] On the country level, roughly a third of citizens in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina believe this is the case while in all the others, it reaches more than 50% of population.

In terms of the citizen-friendliness however, things appear to have gotten worse. A striking example is Albania, with 42% less of those surveyed noting that feedback channels are easy to use. In four of the countries, this decline is 30 percentage points or more.

More citizens in the region feel they are involved, together with civil society, in monitoring service delivery by administrations (42% as opposed to 26% previously). This has also led to a growing perception that such involvement has in fact improved service delivery. The difference can go as high as 20 percentage points, as in the cases of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Service providers remain reluctant to divulge details on feedback from citizens

There is a general lack of transparency of the information shared by citizens as feedback. Like the baseline PAR Monitor, administrations share almost no such information regarding five common administrative services. These include property, business, vehicle registration, obtaining personal documents, and VAT declaration and payment.

Still, some have just started publishing information in some areas – in Albania, for vehicle registration, and in Serbia, there is some basic data on the numbers of received and resolved complaints regarding registering businesses.

Overall, without transparency on feedback and how it is being used, citizen-oriented service delivery is hardly imaginable. Providing details on how users feel about services should become business as usual, but is, instead, lacking for the second monitoring cycle in a row. Overall, the PAR Monitor 2019/2020 has shown few major changes, and a certain level of backsliding in two countries.

[1] As in PAR Monitor 2017/2018, public perceptions on awareness of and usefulness of feedback mechanisms, and availability of feedback information to citizens, are measured through public perception surveys implemented in each of the Western Balkan countries in the same manner. Surveys were implemented in the period from the 5 to 30 May 2020.

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.

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.