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.

 

 

FPI BH CAMPAIGN: How transparently the BiH institutions are informing the public in COVID-19 pandemic era?

In democratic societies, the government operates for the benefit of its citizens and works together with the citizens. One of the values of a democratic order of a country is the transparency of work of its administrative structures, as well as full respect of the inalienable rights of its citizens.

Proactive transparency and free access to information are the basic methods of communication between a state and its citizens. In order to build the citizen’s trust in the administration, the administration needs to be transparent, its work needs to be visible and understandable to the citizens, because in that way the possibility of corruption and abuse of power is reduced, and the citizens are enabled to take active participation in decision making processes.

Since the beginning of April, the Foreign Policy Initiative BH has been campaigning on social networks on how transparently the BiH institutions are informing the public in COVID-19 pandemic era. The published infographics cover relevant state and entity level institutions.

With this campaign, the Foreign Policy Initiative BH wanted to show the citizens that the institutions’ websites exist because of them and that they have the right (but also the obligation) to monitor the work of the institutions as well as the way the public is being informed.

The aim was also to motivate citizens to seek the necessary and verified information from the competent institutions and to find out for themselves whether this is possible and to what extent.

Foreign Policy Initiative BH among the Top 100 think-tank organization in Central and Eastern Europe second 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 89th position at the 2019 Go To Think Tank Report published by the University of Pennsylvania.

Our regional think-tank network, TEN – Think for Europe Network, where FPI BH is a member is on the 34th position for the best think-tank networks in the world.

You can find the 2019 Go To Think Tank Report Index – https://bit.ly/3bjSutK

Official announcement: WeBER 2.0 has begun!

We are proud to inform you that the WeBER Project has received financial support from the European Commission for its continuation and that in the next three years we will continue our work toward reformed public administrations in the Western Balkans.

Six organisations from the Western Balkans, members of the Think for Europe – TEN Network (European Policy Centre – CEP BelgradeInstitute for Democracy and Mediation – IDM TiranaInsititute Alternative – IA Podgorica, Foreign Policy Initiative – FPI SarajevoGroup for Legal and Political Studies – GLPS PristinaEuropean Policy Initiative – EPI Skopje) coordinated by the European Policy Centre – CEP Belgrade, in partnership with the European Policy Centre – EPC from Brussels, and with financial support from the European Commission, will continue their work with a goal to further empower civil society organisations in the Western Balkans to engage in the design and implementation of public administration reform in line with the requirements in the EU accession process.

Guided by the SIGMA Principles, WeBER has pioneered an evidence-based civil society approach to monitoring the governments’ progress in PAR based on EU requirements. It has also built bottom-up reform demand by creating a regional WeBER Platform for PAR dialogue and by empowering CSOs through capacity building and consultation events and meetings. This has laid down foundations for the continuous involvement of civil society in PAR, relying on the regional approach and regionally comparable WeBER monitoring results.

Under the new name, Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration, the WeBER 2.0 design relies on the results of WeBER and published PAR Monitor reports. WeBER 2.0 continues the intervention logic developed and proven effective in the first project, namely that the creation of regional and local pressure and demand for PAR compliant with EU requirements/principles is the best (and perhaps only) way to ensure long-term effectiveness of the EU’s conditionality in this area and keep these reforms on track even beyond the point of achievement of EU membership by the WB countries.

The impact that WeBER 2.0 intends to create is an empowered civil society, armed with knowledge, skills and tools to monitor PAR and hold their national and local governments to account for the quality of policies they develop, services they provide and the overall management of the state and local governments and administrations.

WeBER 2.0 has begun in December 2019 and will last until  December 2022.

Human Rights Defenders in the Western Balkans

The position of human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Western Balkans is increasingly precarious. Across the region, HRDs and organisations, as well as independent media outlets, are prone to intimidation, threats, smear campaigns, digital and physical attacks, and an overall disregard by national authorities.

While the region shares several common features (sluggish integration, weak rule of law, intimidation of HRDs, limited democratisation, lack of press freedoms etc.), naturally each country faces specific challenges and the protection of human rights has unique consequences, depending on local contexts.

As such, this report published by CRD has been compiled by experts from each of the six Western Balkan states, who have extensively researched the challenges and position of HRDs in the region, and offered a broad range of recommendations to national authorities, the international community, media and HRDs themselves. Having interviewed 100 HRDs for the purpose of this report, it represents one of the most prolific and detailed on-the-ground studies of their position in the Western Balkans, on a country-by-country basis.

Anida Šabanović from FPI BH participated in preparing the report “Human Rights Defenders in the Western Balkans” ,which can be found here.

 

Study visit for photo competition winners from V4 countries

In the period 14.11.2019. to 17.11.2019. Foreign Policy Initiative BH organized a study visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina for young people from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary who participated in a photo competition on “SUCCESSFUL INTER-RELIGIOUS CO-OPERATION AND DIALOGUE”. Participants in these three countries had the opportunity to make their own picture based on a video collage, created as a result of shared personal experiences and thinking of young people in BiH, who portrayed equality in their stories through the prism of inter-religious coexistence and dialogue that makes BiH a unique country that can, by way of example, offer young Czechs, Hungarians and Slovaks a reading of history which shows that successful dialogue between members of different religious communities can be (and is, in fact) the rule, not the exception.

During the study visit, the participants had the opportunity to talk with representatives of NGOs in Sarajevo, the Center for Advanced Studies and Humanity in Action (HIA). Center for Advanced Studies – CNS is a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit organization dedicated to comprehensive and sustainable development of BiH – a society based on peace, justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Humanity in Action Bosnia & Herzegovina is an essential part of a collaborative, international learning community of university students and young professionals in Europe and the United States. They think about the big questions in life and society – like social responsibility, values, universal rights, and empathy for those who we disagree with. They care deeply about history and constantly compare the past to the present to learn for the future.

Also, at the premises of the Inter-Religious Council in BiH, they were introduced to the work of the Inter-religious Council which acts as a domestic, non-governmental organization that is not superstitious but a body through which the goodwill of traditional churches and religious communities is manifested to contribute jointly to building civil society in areas where the influence of churches and religious communities is undeniable..

At the War Childhood Museum, they had a presentation and then a tour of materials related to growing up in the war and got acquainted with the stories of each of the young people who submitted some of the items on display at the museum. The exhibition and the idea of ​​establishing a museum was based on a 328-page illustrated book that brought the story of all ages with a rare opportunity to confront the traumas of their recent past without reinforcing ethnic boundaries, the WCM has expanded its activities to contemporary conflict, post-conflict, and resettlement zones.

The study visit finished with a city tour and a visit to museums and major historical sites and institutions.

These activities were organized as part of a project called “My Neighbor, Success Stories of Inter-faith Dialogue within and beyond the V4 Countries” funded by the International Visegrad Fund.

 

Political analysis: “The new dynamic of Europe! What can BiH hope for?”

On 12 November 2019, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung BiH has organized the presentation of political analysis “The new dynamic of Europe! What can BiH hope for?” by Davor Vuletić.

Bosnia and Herzegovina must fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure adherence to 14 priorities in the Commission’s Opinion. It should be the only political agenda for all political parties in BiH in the coming decade. The EU continues to have a strategic interest in the Western Balkans, but it is not a priority; rather, the EU’s priority is to work on its own ‘fitness’, and to give the Western Balkans time to do their homework. Therefore, this new dynamic will only be seen within the EU. BiH can only hope that its political elites will finally move forward.

The aim of this analysis is to provide an overview of the potential changes in the internal and external dynamics of EU politics and policy concerning enlargement towards the Western Balkans, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will examine the messages sent by the EU, in this context, prior to and following the formation of new EU institutions. Since European integration is a two-way process, this analysis will also try to show the current state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina as it pertains to the requirements and expectations of the EU’s Stabilisation and Association process.

The analysis also aims to familiarise policy experts – those coming from different institutions, civil society organisations, diplomats, the international development community, the media, as well as political party officials and young political leaders – with what could be possible develop-ments in EU policy formulation following the European elections, and the formation of EU institutions over the next five years. It will also bring to their attention the impacts such developments will have on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European aspirations.

Participants of the panel discission for the presentation of the analysis were its author Davor Vuletić (FPI BH), Dženana Hodžić (Political Advisor to the EUSR in BiH), Osman Topčagić (President of the Paneuropean Union of BiH, and Former Head of BiH Mission to the European Council), Rasim Ibrahimagić (Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and  Darija Ramljak (The Directorate for European Integration -DEI).  The discussion was moderated by Hana Sokolović (Former News Presenter at N1). Elisabet Tomasinec, Head of Political Section(EUSR in BiH) did the introduction speech. In their discussion the panelists have underlined that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to fundamentally improve its legislative and institutional framework to ensure that it meets the 14 key priorities set out in the Commission’s Opinion.

The presentation was be attended by representatives of the civil society organizations, academia, relevant institutions, embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, members of the academia and media.

Winners of the video collage competition on: “SUCCESSFUL INTER-RELIGIOUS CO-OPERATION AND DIALOGUE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Third place 🥉 - Amina Žigić
Story title: My Neighborhood

In her short video, she told us about her happy growing up in a multi-ethnic community that made her a person with a broad views.

Second place 🥈  - Ermil Horozovic (Zavidovici)
Title: Inter-religious Relations of Youth

The video presents the true story of a group of students from different religions (a brief story of the religious coexistence). The video also shows two schools under the same roof shared by a fence, however young people do not pay attention to it. They met early in their academic years, and have been in touch with each other ever since. They have become friends who share everything, help one another, organize get-together meetings, visit one another for their religious holidays and learn the traditional way of cooking for the same. They can be an example of how to “demolish” a fence raised by religious conflicts. The video shows how we can only benefit from situations like these, and how we should spread positive energy rather than create conflicts, and encourage others to share the same thinking and behavior.

📌 First place 🏆   - Ishak Dedić (Bužim)
Story title: "Does it matter?"

The three friends train together. One is Catholic, the other is Orthodox, and the third is Muslim. It is not important to them, as it should be to everyone. They train and joke, and in addition respect each other. They don't mind the insignificant differences, they are friends, that's all that matters.

Video collage available here.


Contest text in local language available here.

Western Balkan PAR Monitor 2017/2018

The PAR Monitor is the result of research undertaken over the past year by the Think for Europe Network, with the goal of providing a systematic civil society monitoring of public administration reforms (PAR) in the Western Balkans. This exercise was motivated by the need to strengthen domestic, bottom-up pressure from the civil society sector in the long run, in
order to ensure that post-EU accession, when the leverage of the EU’s conditionality in the governance area weakens, the reform drive endures. Based on a robust methodological approach, combining quantitative and qualitative techniques, and building on the EU’s Principles of public administration, the PAR Monitor measures the countries’ state of play in PAR, benchmarks them against each other, and provides recommendations for improvement. The PAR Monitor also ensures complementarity with the monitoring carried out by SIGMA/OECD and the European Commission. It therefore provides a citizen and civil society focused perspective on the EU-SIGMA principles.

The PAR Monitor comprises an overall comparative regional report and six country reports, each including findings on the 23 compound indicators designed by the WeBER project team to monitor a selection of 21 EU-SIGMA principles.

Western Balkan PAR Monitor available here.

National PAR Monitor – Bosnia and Herzegovina 2017/2018

Public administration reform (PAR) is today considered a fundamental requirement for the EU aspirants on their accession path. As a complex and all-encompassing reform, PAR in the Western Balkans region is being thoroughly assessed through the lenses of the SIGMA Principles of
Public Administration, developed by the OECD/SIGMA and endorsed by the EU. These Principles define what makes a well-functioning administration in terms of its ability to deliver transparent, efficient and effective services to citizens, and to support socio-economic development.

In the context of a high external pressure for tangible developments in PAR, home-grown demand for better administration becomes even more important, to keep pressuring the government to pursue reforms once the external conditionality dissipates as the result of a completed accession process. Civil society actors, with local knowledge of administration’s
functioning, can lead such domestic advocacy efforts aimed at better administration. Independent PAR monitoring and evidence-based dialogues with the government represent a good approach to achieve this goal.

Based on such a rationale, the WeBER project has completed its first monitoring cycle. Its structured and evidence-based approach to PAR monitoring brings the reform closer to the public, by particularly focusing on PAR aspects with most relevance to the civil society and the public.
WeBER PAR monitoring strongly relies on strengths, skills, and local knowledge of the civil society in the Western Balkans. It builds on the SIGMA’s Principles of Public Administration as a cornerstone of PAR, while assessing them from the standpoint of an independently produced
PAR Monitor methodology. Overall, the methodology is based on the selection of 21 SIGMA Principles within six key areas, monitored and reported through 23 compound indicators that focus on different aspects of PAR.

Report available here.