Project – Piloting mechanisms of transparency and integrity of government bodies at the cantonal and local level in BiH

Within the project “Piloting mechanisms of transparency and integrity of government bodies at the cantonal and local level in BiH” a virtual meetings was held with the Mayor of Teslić, Dr. Milan Miličević  and with the Mayor of Ilidža, Nermin Muzur. At the meetings are presented standards of Integrity and Transparency in procedures of employment, allocation of funds to individuals, non-profit organizations and companies through public invitation, public procurement, issuance of permits and consents which is done by the municipal administration, were presented.

The standards were developed in cooperation with the project “Piloting Mechanisms of Transparency and Integrity of Authorities at the Cantonal and Local Level in BiH”, funded by the UK Government through UK Aid and implemented by TAF Western Balkans (VPI BH one of the partners for BiH) and Lucid Linx Sarajevo.

“When citizens have questions, they should be able to get answers to them. Local governments that proactively provide information that is important to citizens, show that the interests of citizens and their well-being are extremely important to them.”

Matt Field, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to BiH

Meeting with the Mayor of Ilidža as part of the project – “Piloting mechanisms of transparency and integrity of government bodies at the cantonal and local level in BiH”

On Friday, March 26, 2020, a virtual meeting was held with the Mayor of Ilidža, Nermin Muzur, at which the Standards of Integrity and Transparency in procedures of employment, allocation of funds to individuals, non-profit organizations and companies through public invitation, public procurement, issuance of permits and consents which is done by the municipal administration, were presented. The standards were developed in cooperation with the project “Piloting Mechanisms of Transparency and Integrity of Authorities at the Cantonal and Local Level in BiH”, funded by the UK Government through UK Aid and implemented by TAF Western Balkans (VPI BH one of the partners for BiH) and Lucid Linx Sarajevo.

Meeting with the Mayor of Teslić as part of the project – “Piloting mechanisms of transparency and integrity of government bodies at the cantonal and local level in BiH”

On Friday, March 19, 2020, a virtual meeting was held with the Mayor of Teslić, Dr. Milan Miličević, at which the Standards of Integrity and Transparency in procedures of employment, allocation of funds to individuals, non-profit organizations and companies through public invitation, public procurement, issuance of permits and consents which is done by the municipal administration, were presented. The standards were developed in cooperation with the project “Piloting Mechanisms of Transparency and Integrity of Authorities at the Cantonal and Local Level in BiH”, funded by the UK Government through UK Aid and implemented by TAF Western Balkans (VPI BH one of the partners for BiH) and Lucid Linx Sarajevo.

Citizens First: Second Regional WeBER Conference

25th – 26th of February 2021 – Second Regional Conference Citizens First was held on the 25th and 26th of February. The conference was held in a hybrid format, with speakers from Serbia attending live, while speakers from the region and Europe joined online. The conference was physically attended by a limited number of people from Belgrade, in line with current epidemiological measures.

You can watch the recording of the first day of the conference here, and the recording of the second day can be found here.

Over two days, five panels and six parallel sessions were held, where participants from Serbia, Europe and the region had the opportunity to discuss the progress and challenges facing civil society in monitoring the public administration reform process, the efforts it is making would be more involved in creating a citizen-oriented administration.

The event was organized by European Policy Centre (CEP), in co-operation with five other regional organizations from the Western Balkans within the Think for Europe Network. The conference is part of WeBER2.0, a regional initiative dedicated to empowering civil society and citizens to be more willing to monitor and control the public administration reform process.

Highlights from the conference:

Tamara Srzentic, Minister of Public Administration of Montenegro, said in her introductory address that “when the community comes together to solve problems, anything is possible.” She added that it sometimes happens that policy planning and implementation are not well “connected”. “Implemented policies can be compared to a car that is loosely connected to the wheels – you will not get where you wanted and you will hurt many people on your way,” said Srzentic.

Srzentic said that policies should be made “starting with users”, that is, to have them in the foreground. “The government cannot do it alone – if you are part of the community, which we all are, we can help governments create a society that benefits us all,” Srzentic said.

“A well-functioning administration is one in which processes and institutions are created to meet the needs of society using the resources at their disposal”, said Myriam Ferran, Director for Strategy and Turkey at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

We want to create a system based on a partnership that works in both directions – for both civil society and the administration. This relationship is sensitive because sometimes there are obstacles and sometimes misconceptions. Therefore, it is important to build trust between civil society and the administration,” she added, emphasizing that it is not easy to build. “Issues of working with the government, administration and improving the functioning of public administration, as well as the very importance of transparency and inclusiveness, is something that EU countries are constantly working on because it should never stop,” Ferran said.

Hata Kujrakovic, a student from Sarajevo, who spoke as a youth representative, said that young people from the entire region were very disappointed with the situation. “Let’s look around – what do we see? We see young, educated people leaving their countries en masse. This is a consequence of the problems we face. Research shows that corruption, unemployment, poor living standards and the lack of any prospects that this will change are the main reasons for moving abroad.” Young people are especially frustrated and discouraged when they see how the public sector is employed through connections. “It is very demoralizing when we see that all the money, effort, the time we have invested in education and personal development, the sacrifices we have made – are simply not enough because we do not have a “connection”.  Because of this feeling of despair, it seems that we have only one thing left – to leave,” she said.

In the first panel, called, “A meeting point between bottom-up and top-down reform impetuses”, discussants were Milena Lazarevic, Programme Director at CEP and WeBER Team Leader, and Gregor Virant, Head of SIGMA (a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union aimed at supporting the administration reform of countries in the process of joining the EU) and a former Minister of Public Administration of Slovenia. The panel was moderated by Radio Television Serbia (RTS) journalist, Vesna Damjanic.

Milena Lazarevic drew attention to the fact that it seems that the governments in the region are carrying out reforms only “because of Brussels”, and not because of their citizens. “Through many cases, it can be seen that when laws are passed and policies are considered, drafts are sent to Brussels and international actors, but public consultations, which should be at the heart of the process, are often not held,” Lazarevic said.

Lazarevic pointed out that one of the ideas of the WeBER2.0 initiative is to promote “champions from the region”, administrations that work best in the service of citizens, as examples of good practice for others. She added that only when we come out of the crisis period brought by the pandemic, we will see whether the governments have progressed, or retreated, especially when it comes to transparency in decision-making and spending budget funds”, said Lazarevic. Gregor Virant stressed that “expectations of the speed of progress on the road to the EU in the region are high”.

“We must understand that things will not happen overnight: reforms are a long process. We should not overestimate what can be done in two years, but we should not underestimate what can be done in 10 years “, concluded Virant.

Milos Djindjic, the Lead Researcher on the WeBER2.0 project and Programme Manager at the European Policy Centre (CEP) and Julijana Karai, a Researcher at the European Policy Institute (EPI) in Skopje, presented the findings of the research team observing the public administration reform process during the previous year.

“Our findings show that more than 50% of the surveyed citizens believe that solving problems related to public administration has become easier in the past year,” said Djindjic. The results also show that service providers still rarely publish information on their sites. The findings will soon be published online.

After the presentation of the project results, six parallel sessions followed, one for each area of public administration reform, where representatives of civil society and public administration discussed more detailed findings in each area.

On the second day of the conference, moderated by journalist Nenad Sebek, two panels were held: In the first, civil society representatives presented their examples and ideas for improving public administration, and in the second, Western Balkan citizens discussed their expectations from public administration.

The conference also presented a new WeBER2.0 platform where citizens of the Western Balkans can express their experiences with public administration, find advices and experiences of other citizens and express their opinions on various issues related to public administration. You can access the platform here.

In the final panel titled “Do citizens want good administration?”, moderated by Milos Djindjic, participants were Florian Hauser, Team Leader at the Center for Thematic Expertise of Public Administration Reform in DG NEAR, in the European Commission, Annika Uudelepp, Country Manager for Serbia and Regional Manager for EU Enlargement within SIGMA – OECD, and Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling, Professor of Political Science, University of Nottingham (United Kingdom) and WeBER Advisory Council member.

“Citizens are quite comfortable with the ‘status quo’ because they enjoy the so-called ‘clientelism’ and passive attitude: they, therefore, overlook their need for better public policies, even though it is detrimental to them in the long run, but it serves them in the short term,” said Professor Meyer Sahling.

“We need to build a civic culture – learn to be critical thinkers, and assess our environment and our public administration”, agreed Florian Hauser.

Annika Uudelepp said that this is where civil society organisations should enter the scene, as they would serve as a “translator” of the citizens’ needs.

“Institutions and bureaucracies have their jargon, which is often not understandable to citizens, and citizens often do not know how to explain their demands. That is where civil society should enter the scene”, said Uudelepp.

The conference was held with the support of the European Union, and within the project “Protection of Civil Space – Regional Center for Civil Society Development” funded by SIDA and implemented by BCSDN.

Photo credit: Branko Birac (@vrlodobro)

FPI BH: ARE THE CITIZENS FIRST TO THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION?

A hybrid regional conference “Citizens First” is taking place in Belgrade on Thursday and Friday (February 25 – 26, 2021). The event is organized by the European Policy Center (CEP), in co-operation with five other regional organizations from the Western Balkans within the Think for Europe network, including the Foreign Policy Initiative BH. The conference is a part of WeBER2.0, a regional project dedicated to empowering civil society and citizens to be prepared to monitor and control the process of public administration reform.

Hata Kujrakovic, a student from Sarajevo, had an opportunity to open the conference and send a clear message: “Let’s look around – what do we see? We see young, educated people leaving their countries en masse. This is a consequence of the problems we face. Research shows that corruption, unemployment, poor living standards and the lack of any prospects that this will change are the main reasons for moving abroad.”

She also said that young people are especially frustrated and discouraged when they see how the public sector is employed through connections. “It is very demoralizing when we see that all the money, effort, the time we have invested in education and personal development, the sacrifices we have made – are simply not enough because we do not have a “connection”.  Because of this feeling of despair, it seems that we have only one thing left – to leave,” she said.

Tamara Srzentic, Minister of Public Administration of Montenegro, said in her introductory address that “when the community comes together to solve problems, anything is possible.” She added that it sometimes happens that policy planning and implementation are not well “connected”. “Implemented policies can be compared to a car that is loosely connected to the wheels – you will not get where you wanted and you will hurt many people on your way,” said Srzentic.

Srzentic said that policies should be made “starting with users”, that is, to have them in the foreground. “The government cannot do it alone – if you are part of the community, which we all are, we can help governments create a society that benefits us all,” Srzentic said.

Milena Lazarevic, Program Director of CEP, drew attention to the fact that it seems that the governments in the region are carrying out reforms only “because of Brussels”, and not because of their citizens. “Through many cases, it can be seen that when laws are passed and policies are considered, drafts are sent to Brussels and international actors, but public consultations, which should be at the heart of the process, are often not held,” Lazarevic said.

Lazarevic pointed out that one of the ideas of the WeBER2.0 initiative is to promote “champions from the region”, administrations that work best in the service of citizens, as examples of good practice for others. She added that only when we come out of the crisis period brought by the pandemic, we will see whether the governments have progressed, or retreated, especially when it comes to transparency in decision-making and spending budget funds”, said Lazarevic.

“A well-functioning administration is one in which processes and institutions are created to meet the needs of society using the resources at their disposal”, said Myriam Ferran, Director for Strategy and Turkey at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

“We want to create a system based on a partnership that works in both directions – for both civil society and the administration. This relationship is sensitive because sometimes there are obstacles and sometimes misconceptions. Therefore, it is important to build trust between civil society and the administration,” she added, emphasizing that it is not easy to build. “Issues of working with the government, administration and improving the functioning of public administration, as well as the very importance of transparency and inclusiveness, is something that EU countries are constantly working on because it should never stop,” Ferran said.

Gregor Virant, Director of SIGMA (joint initiative of OECD and EU whose goal is to support the public administration reform of countries which are in the process of to the EU and former Minister of Public Administration of Slovenia, stressed that “expectations of the speed of progress on the road to the EU in the region are high”.

“We must understand that things will not happen overnight: reforms are a long process. We should not overestimate what can be done in two years, but we should not underestimate what can be done in 10 years “, concluded Virant.

Director of FPI BH, Anida Sabanović, presented the results of WeBER 2.0 research in the field of Policy Development and Coordination, where the practice of civil society dissatisfaction with work planning, transparency and decision-making, as well as the quality of consultations with civil society continued. When it comes to reporting, there is still no focus on performance across the region and it is activity-oriented.

“It is a devastating fact that only 13% of the surveyed representatives of civil society organizations at the regional level agree to some extent that the decision-making procedures by the governments are generally transparent,” said Sabanovic.

The conference is part of the Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration (WeBER 2.0) project, implemented by the Foreign Policy Initiative BH with partners within the Think for Europe Network and in cooperation with the Brussels-based European Policy Center (EPC). For more information about the project, visit: www.par-monitor.org

 

Our new regional platform – MladiRini

This platform was created as a part of a project implemented by a group of think tanks under the Think for Europe Network and their partners from Poland, Italy and Belgium. It is intended to survey the voices of the youth, aged 16 to 25, to propagate them and to stimulate discussion regarding various topics, among which internet freedoms, issues regarding the environment and rule of law will be featured. It was created as a part of the Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective project but will serve for the continuous involvement and engagement with the youth.

Also, this platform aims to gather the voices of the youth from 6 Western Balkan countries that are going to participate in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Therefore, the aim of the platform is to understand, include and advocate for the youth and their opinions on the big stage.

What this means is that you can provide us with significant input that we will be able to compile and promote in order to advocate for policies that will better a young person’s position in the Western Balkans.

And here’s us – teams full of advocates, youth enthusiasts and internet geeks who have worked hard to bring us here all together.

Check it out! www.mladirini.org and, whether you are mladi or rini, tell us what you think about yourself and your space in this ever-changing world!

IN MEDIA PRESS / WeBER 2.0 / Bosnia and Herzegovina

BUKA Magazin – Pandemija nije uticala da građani u BiH češće koriste e-usluge (6yka.com)

VPI BH: Pandemija nije uticala da građani u BiH češće koriste e-usluge | RTVTK

VPI BH: Pandemija nije uticala da građani u BiH češće koriste e-usluge | FENA

Pandemija nije značajnije utjecala da građani BiH češće koriste e-usluge – Klix.ba

source.ba | Pandemija nije uticala da građani u BiH češće koriste e-usluge

face.ba | Jedina neovisna medijska kuca

Pandemija nije značajnije utjecala da građani BiH češće koriste e-usluge – www.vecernji.ba

Pandemija nije uticala da građani u BiH češće koriste e-usluge – Analiziraj.ba

Ni korona nas nije odviknula od šaltera / Bljesak.info | BH Internet magazin

Bh. građani ne koriste elektronske usluge: Ni korona nas nije odvikla od šaltera | ZOS d.o.o. (zosradio.ba)

Pandemija nije značajnije utjecala da građani BiH češće koriste e-usluge (theworldnews.net)

TVSA.BA – Televizija Sarajevo

Danas u “Dnevnom avazu” čitajte: Idu nove krivične prijave

Foreign Policy Initiative BH among the Top 100 think-tank organization in Central and Eastern Europe third year in a row

We are proud to inform you that the Foreign Policy Initiative BH is again among the Top 100 think-tank organization in Central and Eastern Europe! FPI BH is on the 88th position at the 2020 Go To Think Tank Report published by the University of Pennsylvania.

TEN – Think for Europe Network a regional network which consists of six research organisations from the Western Balkans reached the list of the world’s best networks of research organisations for the third year in a row!

You can find the 2020 Go To Think Tank Report Index – “2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report” by James G. McGann (upenn.edu)

The Interaction Between the EU’s Climate Change Objectives and its State Aid Regulation in the Area of Renewable Energy

Our associate Davor Vuletić has published a scientific paper on the topic “The Interaction Between the EU’s Climate Change Objectives and its State Aid Regulation in the Area of Renewable Energy” for the Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy.

This paper analyses the interaction between the EU’s climate change objectives and its state aid regulation in the area of renewable energy through the chronology of the adoption of the EU’s key policy documents and related legislation. The EU’s state aid rules impose certain restrictions on the public financing of renewable energy, which is crucial for reaching the EU’s climate change objectives in due time. The paper identifies four challenges in this respect. The ultimate challenge for the EU is how to reconcile science, the market economy and energy politics. Another challenge for the EU was the diverging national energy policies before the ‘energy title’ was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty. The third challenge for the Commission is how to move the climate change issues up to the top decision-making level. The final challenge is the state aid framework that supports climate change mitigation, whose upcoming changes should address the gap between ambition and reality. The paper aims to assess the policy consistency of the EU’s climate change legislation in order to determine whether the EU’s credibility as a ‘green leader’ is just nominal. The notion of ‘nominal green leader’ is related to the consistency of the EU’s climate change legislation which seems not to have had the expected effect determined by the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. The paper brings the ambitious policies face to face with the data on state aid provided for climate and energy targets and compares them with the technological expectations in renewable energy deployment. The question that arises is whether it is time for the EU to balance the understanding of ‘common interest’ more towards climate change mitigation at the expense of certain elements of competition policy.

Keywords: climate change, competition, electricity generation, internal market, renewable energy, state aid.

The article in English is available here.

Vol 16 (2020): ONLINE FIRST | Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy (cyelp.com).

Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen?

The two-day activity of the Foreign Policy Initiative BH Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen? as a part of the project Make Future Together: The EU and the Western Balkans from Youth Perspective, which consisted of yesterday’s focus group with young people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and today’s panel discussion that included experts and youth representatives from yesterday’s event with the goal to raise awareness of the Internet and the socio-political engagement of young people towards a wider audience, and to provide concrete solutions.

Over the last few years, the scope and use of digital tools such as social media has expanded significantly in many areas of our daily lives. One of them is the political sphere, where citizens get involved in discussions and debates and gather information about political events. The aim of the event is to explore the practices and attitude of young people on this issue, in order to determine how social media can be used as a tool to strengthen democracy. Topics discussed were internet freedom, misinformation and fake news.

Today, representatives of young people who discussed at yesterday’s event, had the opportunity to present their views, opinions and conclusions about social networks and the Internet in general, as a means for their daily activities. By talking to people who work directly in this field, such as Irhana Čajdin from Group 9 and Emir Zulejhić from the Raskrinkavanje.ba portal, they came to new insights into practices concerning young people online. Of course, on behalf of the Delegation of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vladimir Pandurevic, Head of the Civil Society Program, EIDHR, also addressed us, emphasizing that active cooperation with young people is what makes such projects successful.

Some of the conclusions from yesterday’s discussion include “two sides of the same coin” (that is, the Internet), where young people singled out the following: positive sides include information gathering, online social activism and connecting with family and friends, whereas fake news, bad influence on the mental state of users, and hate speech depict the negative sides. In addition, young people dedicated their discussions to proposing possible solutions, highlighting the reporting of negative content, continuous education of young people, and indicating the use of beauty filters in published photos.

Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen? is a part of the project Make Future Together: The EU and the Western Balkans from Youth Perspective which is implemented by the Foreign Policy Initiative BH in cooperation with other members of the regional Think For Europe Network (TEN), the Institute for International Relations in Rome, the Bronislaw Geremek Foundation Center in Warsaw and the Centre for European Policy in Brussels. The project is funded by the European Union as a part of their Europe for Citizens program.