News archive

21.10.2014

RCC SPOKESPERSON HONOURED WITH DR ERHARD BUSEK - SEEMO AWARD FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

SEEMO AWARD FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

Skopje - RCC Spokesperson, Nenad Šebek, is this year’s recipient of the Dr Erhard Busek – SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe. The Award, by the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO - an affiliate of the International Press Institute IPI), is given for outstanding efforts in journalism which have contributed towards democratisation and better understanding in the region.

At a ceremony in Skopje, Dr Erhard Busek, former Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for SEE, said the award is going into the right pair of hands, citing Nenad Šebek’s work both in the field of journalism and civil society and his tireless efforts to break boundaries and build bridges between peoples and nations.

The Dr Erhard Busek - SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South, Eastern and Central Europe honours journalists, editors, media executives, media experts, professors, writers and journalism trainers in South East Europe who have contributed to promoting better understanding in the region and who have worked towards ending minority-related problems, ethnic divisions, racism, xenophobia, gender discrimination, homophobia etc. The award is sponsored by Dr Erhard Busek, former vice-chancellor of Austria, Jean Monet Professor ad personam, president of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI).

Nenad Šebek has been the Spokesperson for the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) since June 2014. Prior to this, he was the Executive director of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) for 12 years, developing and working on a wide variety of programmes, from the Joint History Project to the regional television talk show “Vicinities”. Before the CDRSEE, Šebek worked for 26 years as a journalist, starting at Radio Belgrade and moving on to the BBC. He was Balkans and then Moscow correspondent for "The World" (a co-production of the BBC World Service, Public Radio International and WGBH in Boston). He covered the Balkans through the tumultuous 1990s, working first for the BBC and then "The World".


15.10.2014

Meeting of the Board of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC); Report on RCC activities April-September 2014 adopted

Secretary General Goran Svilanovic presents organisation’s activities in the period April – September at the third RCC Board Meeting in 2014 (Photo: RCC)

Sarajevo – At the third meeting of the RCC Board this year the RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic, presented a number of activities of the RCC Secretariat in the period April – September 2014 and informed the Board on the most important future activities, especially those related to the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-16 and its central pillar: the SEE 2020 Strategy.

Mr. Svilanovic highlighted the synergy between the RCC and the Albanian Southeast European Cooperation Process Chairmanship-in-Office (SEECP C-i-O) that has an indispensable role in coordinating regional activities in SEE, saying “we explored the areas where joint action can be undertaken and in which ways can the RCC effectively support the C-i-O.”

Today’s meeting was also an opportunity to present the conclusions of numerous conferences that took place in the reporting period, especially the RCC participation at the high-level Conference on Western Balkans on 28 August in Berlin where the Final Declaration underlined the crucial role of the RCC in intensifying regional cooperation as an essential basis for stability in the region.

The Secretary General also referred to specific efforts undertaken by the Western Balkans economies to enhance mutual cooperation in the EU accession process and seize the opportunities offered by the existing EU policies and financial instruments. These positive developments have been recognized and supported in the latest EC Enlargement Strategy 2014 - 2015 of 8 October 2014, in which the work of SEECP and RCC is fully supported. 

The second part of the meeting focused on presenting the next phase of the SEE 2020 Strategy and briefing the Board on the main developments regarding the SEE 2020 framework and the progress made since the last meeting of the Strategy’s Governing Board in June.

The Head of SEE 2020 Strategy Coordination Unit, Sanjin Arifagic, spoke about the projects being planned in the SEE 2020 context, with a total value which is expected in a vicinity of EUR 17 million.

Since most of these interventions are scheduled to start in 2016 at the earliest, the RCC started with the implementation of smaller, targeted interventions during this year committing almost EUR 2 million from the RCC’s budget towards the implementation of the SEE 2020 as well as mobilizing other partners and finding other sources of funding to complement RCC’s efforts and help fill the gap until the implementation of IPA II projects.

The Board was also informed about the importance of the justice and home affairs in the RCC SWP for 2014 – 2016, highlighting the need of addressing the main barriers at the regional level and EU enlargement process. Therefore, one of RCC’s priorities in the forthcoming period will be enhancing regional cooperation in combating serious and organized crime, fighting corruption and boosting integrity in public administrations.

The next meeting of the RCC Board is expected to take place in February next year.

Report on the activities of the RCC Secretariat_April_September_2014


16.09.2014

RCC CO-ORGANISES THE 4th BiH CONGRESS ON ROADS

Sarajevo is to host launching of the project to improve cooperation in South East Europe by strengthening RCC, on 16 March 2012. (Photo RCC/Samir Pinjagic)

SARAJEVO – The Association of Consulting Engineers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACE BH) with the support of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Communications is organizing the 4th BiH Congress on Roads which will be held on the 18th and 19th September in Sarajevo.

In line with RCC’s SEE 2020 strategy, this conference will provide a platform for a discussion on the planning and development of the road transport system, management, construction, maintenance, protection of the environment, road safety and the financing of the transport sector. Congress topics will include the actual state of road infrastructure in BiH and the EU as well as future development of the road infrastructure. More specifically, the participants will discuss the following topics: 1) Development strategy of the road transport system, studies and design, construction and maintenance of roads 2) Financing of the road infrastructure and road management  3) Safety and environmental protection. 

The Congress will be opened by Sanjin Arifagic (Head of the SEE 2020 Coordination Unit), Kresimir Saravanja (ACE BH),  Damir Hadzic (Minister of Communication and Transport BiH), Christophe Nicodeme (European Road Federation General Director), Esref Gacanin (President of ACE BiH), Ensad Karic (PC Motorways of FB&H, Director General) and Dusan Topic (PC Motorways of RS, Director General). Special guests of the opening ceremony will be the British and Greek Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, HE Edward Ferguson, and HE Karolos Gadis as well as Mr Triantafyllos Papatriantafyllou, Director General of the Department of Foreign Transport from the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Networks of Greece.

Congress participants come from 10 European countries, including representatives of the ministries responsible for road transport, professional international associations and agencies, as well as regional organizations and academia.


01.09.2014

BERLIN CONFERENCE CONFIRMS IMPORTANCE OF REGIONAL COOPERATION

RCC Secretary General  attends Western Balkans conference in Berlin

Last week’s conference in Berlin, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ushered in a new phase of EU accession for the Western Balkans countries, one in which the goals and targets are more clearly defined and assorted in an ongoing process which will be hosted by Austria and then France in the coming years. The Final Declaration by the Chair of the Conference underlined the importance of Regional cooperation as a crucial element of the EU accession process and specifically mentions the important role the Regional Cooperation Council.

RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic, who presented the RCC’s SEE2020 Strategy at the economic table of the Berlin meeting, says that there is a growing awareness among the countries of the Western Balkans, that the road to economic recovery and EU membership can be travelled much faster and in greater comfort as a joint endeavour. Svilanovic also said that this next phase of the EU enlargement will be different to the previous ones and will require much more regional cooperation.

 


28.08.2014

RCC SECRETARY GENERAL ATTENDS WESTERN BALKANS CONFERENCE IN BERLIN

RCC Secretary General  attends Western Balkans conference in Berlin

BERLIN – At the initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and hosted by Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel,  a discussion on economic potentials and prospects of the Western Balkans kicked off the Western Balkans summit in Berlin. The main motto of this conference was “Through trade, investment and regional cooperation to new dynamics” and it was co-hosted by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. The conference brought together ministers of Economy or Finance from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo*, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia.

RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic, took part in the panel session “Promotion of employment, medium-sized businesses and investments” and took the opportunity to emphasise the need of the SEE economies to go beyond national borders and to incorporate the energies of both government and private sector in order to achieve an economic recovery. Mr Svilanovic said that “we urgently need long term socio-economic reforms which could provide a safe and predictable environment for doing business”. He presented the common vision of the region’s Ministers – the increase of economic competitiveness and job creation – which is the cornerstone of the common SEE 2020 Strategy – Jobs and Prosperity in European Perspective adopted in November 2013 and now in its implementation phase. Svilanovic told the Berlin conference about the main goals and mechanisms of the Strategy which plans to boost the GDP, to increase mutual trade and foreign direct investment as well as create more jobs.

Referring to the Strategy’s five development pillars, Mr. Svilanovic focused on the economy, job creation and good economic governance emphasizing that these economies need to remove trade barriers, jointly promote the region to foreign investors, fund shared research programs, develop common energy and transport infrastructure, enable the mobility of workers across the Balkans and improve services and create a stable environment for doing business. He concluded by saying it is of crucial importance to enhance coordination, cooperation and communication among regional governments, organizations and the private sector. “The region has a great deal to offer to the foreign investment community and better cooperation among all of the involved stakeholders, will benefit everyone”, Svilanovic said.

* This designation is without prejudice to position or status and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.


26.06.2014

South East Europe Investment Committee integrated into Regional Cooperation Council’s structures as of 1 July 2014

The South East Europe Investment Committee (SEEIC) meeting in Zagreb, Croatia on 26 June 2014 (Photo RCC)

The South East Europe Investment Committee (SEEIC) met in Zagreb on 26 June to discuss a range of issues dealing with the economic growth in the region.

Co-organised by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Croatia, the meeting took note of the full integration of the SEEIC into the structures of the RCC. This change will take effect on the 1 July this year and will be an important step in the full regional ownership of the Committee and its work. The participants also adopted the SEEIC Work Plan and the Regional Action Plan, both aligned towards the implementation of the SEE 2020 Strategy priority measures.

Also agreed was a concerted effort to continue mobilizing the activities and resources of the involved economies and regional partners in the implementation and monitoring of the SEE 2020 Strategy. Measures were discussed on ways and means to conduct an investment policy review and to coordinate the programme together with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and International Finance Corporation (IFC)/World Bank in order to improve the investment climate in South East Europe. Discussions will continue on how best to address the skills gap and education and training within the two priority sectors of the SEE 2020: food and beverages processing, and tourism.


20.06.2014

RCC AT THE MEETING OF THE SEECP MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The RCC participated in the formal meeting of the SEECP Ministers of Foreign Affairs, in Bucharest on 20 June 2014. (Photo RCC/Erhan Turbedar)

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Goran Svilanovic, participated in the formal meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP), in Bucharest today. The Ministers approved the Annual Report of the RCC Secretary General 2013/2014.

The report covers the period April 2013 – April 2014. It outlines main RCC activities and achievements in the past year. It also lays out the overall background and crucial developments impacting and shaping the activities of the RCC and the region of South East Europe (SEE) in the reporting period.

The RCC Secretary General Svilanovic spoke in more detail about the RCC’s major endeavour – the SEE 2020 Strategy. The Strategy is a comprehensive effort to boost the economies in the region and open a million jobs in the next 6 years.  “It involves 86 measures within 16 policy areas to be implemented together with RCC participating governments and regional structures”, Svilanovic said.

He also thanked Romania, the outgoing SEECP Chair in Office (C-i-O) for successfully carrying out its role and for its “dedication and leadership throughout the term in office, as well as for rallying SEECP Participating States around the common goal embedded in its motto – “Sharing One European Future”.

The Meeting of the SEECP Ministers of Foreign Affairs precedes the SEECP Summit of Heads of State and Government later this month, on 25 June 2014.


28.05.2014

Implementation of two EU grants for rehabilitation of Western Balkans cultural heritage almost completed

The ninth meeting of the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society was held on 28 May 2014 in Ulcinj, Montenegro. (Photo RCC/Milena Filipovic)

The ninth meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Task Force on Culture and Society (TFCS), marking the entering into the final phase of implementation of the Ljubljana Process II – Rehabilitating Our Common Heritage, ended in Ulcinj, Montenegro, today. 

The meeting presented the final phases of implementation of the European Commission’s 500,000 euro grant for sustaining the rehabilitation of cultural heritage in the Western Balkans, and gave an overview of 14 cultural heritage site projects implemented in six WB countries. Preparation of project designs for another six cultural heritage sites in four Western Balkans countries has also been completed.

“The works performed included preparation of extensive documentation with many additional investigations and analyses. These cultural monuments and sites have completed an important step in cultural heritage rehabilitation process” said Ivana Nakikj, Head of the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society Secretariat. 

“An amount of 95,000 euro has been allocated for the preparation of cultural heritage site management plans with relevant training to sustain the rehabilitation projects for additional seven sites in the region.” 

The two-day event endorsed the Comprehensive Report on the results and actions within the Ljubljana Process II prepared by the RCC TFCS Secretariat and discussed future steps in the involvement of the RCC TFCS as a Dimension Coordinator of the Cultural and Creative Sectors Dimension of the RCC’s South East Europe (SEE) 2020 Strategy. 

In his opening address, Mladen Dragasevic, Senior RCC Expert on Smart Growth, invited the TFCS to provide active contribution to the ongoing process of development of three regional programs under this Dimension which support the continuation of cultural heritage rehabilitation through Ljubljana Process, audio-visual sector and design industries in order to achieve sustainability of the RCC TFCS. 

The conclusions of the Council of Culture Ministers of the EU on cultural heritage, as a strategic resource for sustainable Europe, were presented by Wenceslas de Lobkowicz, European Commission’s Advisor on Inter-cultural Dialogue and Cultural Heritage at the Directorate General for Enlargement. Lobkowicz said that this document could contribute to defining guidelines for SEE regional cooperation activities. 

The meeting, organized by the Task Force Secretariat, gathered high-level officials from RCC participants from South East Europe, representatives of the RCC Secretariat, and the European Commission. The Republic of Serbia took over the Chair of the RCC TFCS from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, at the meeting. 


23.05.2014

RCC’s SEE 2020 Strategy: Regional Action Plan in the area of justice approved

Regional Action Plan for South East Europe (SEE) in the area of justice has been unanimously approved at the first meeting of the Working Group on Justice, held under the guidance of the RCC Secretariat, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 23 May 2014 (Photo: RCC/Vanja Vekic)

Regional Action Plan for South East Europe (SEE) in the area of justice has been unanimously approved by all members at the first meeting of the Working Group on Justice, held under the guidance of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, today.

The Plan refers to the following three areas: efficiency of courts, quality of justice and competence of judges and prosecutors; cross-border judicial cooperation in business related legal and judicial areas; and alternative dispute resolution.

Suzana Ivanovic, RCC Secretariat’s Senior Expert and Head of Justice and Home Affairs Unit, said that the Plan foresees comparative overview of best practices for court backlogs reduction program and for quality measuring system for the judiciary, which could be later followed-up with more concrete actions if needed. Regional Action Pan also envisages the establishment of Regional Judicial and Prosecutorial Training Network (RJPTN) and of regional cooperation through network of judicial and prosecutorial councils, and also increasing competences of presidents of courts and court administrators. 

“Justice in an important area with the RCC’s SEE 2020 Strategy, as a part of the Good Governance pillar, that focuses its activities on achieving a significant improvement in the functioning of the judicial system in SEE, as an independent, efficient and accountable judiciary is a sine qua non precondition for the rule of law, democracy and human rights development,“ said Ivanović.

This Regional Action Plan covers the period until 2016, and also includes introduction of e-procedure in bankruptcy matters, make comparative overview on legislative approaches on mediation in bankruptcy proceedings and developing a network of bankruptcy trustees’ chambers or bankruptcy agencies.

The alternative dispute resolution dimension foresees the implementation of the pilot court-annexed mediation model as well as organisation of training courses for judges.

The Plan is to be implemented by six SEE 2020 Strategy participating countries. Its activities are closely linked to the criteria in the European Union (EU) Enlargement Chapter 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights – and present a supplement to the endeavours aimed at meeting that criteria.

The meeting was organized by the RCC Secretariat and it gathered members of the working Group on Justice for South East Europe, European Center for Dispute Resolutions (ECDR) consultants and RCC Secretariat.

 RCC SEE 2020 Strategy


22.05.2014

Air Transport potentials in South East Europe focus of Sarajevo Conference

“Air Transport as a Driver for Development and Economic Prosperity in the South East Europe” Conference held at RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo on 22 May 2014 (Photo: RCC/Via Media)

Conference titled “Air Transport as a Driver for Development and Economic Prosperity in the South East Europe” was held at the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in Sarajevo today.

The Conference that brought together representatives of ministries responsible for air transport, airlines, airports, regional organisations and academia assessed present and potential future contribution of air transport services as an infrastructural connectivity network as well as its potential in fostering advanced economic and social development and cooperation in South East Europe (SEE), especially in light of SEE 2020 Strategy.

In his opening remarks, RCC Deputy Secretary General Gazmend Turdiu said that within its Transport Dimension of the
Sustainable Growth Pillar, the SEE 2020 Strategy further builds on the Single European Sky (SES) and the Joint Service Provision Area (JSPA) Initiative. 

“The air traffic, looked through the prism of overall economic growth in the region could certainly be a great support. The regional airspace potentials should be used in an efficient and effective manner by intensifying regional cooperation between air traffic stakeholders. Still, we are all aware of poor air traffic connections among the major cities in SEE, which represents a barrier to fast and convenient travel affecting the quality of the services delivered to end consumers.”

Representing the Joint Service Provision Area Initiative, Zoran Djuranovic pointed out to important integration processes taking place in region that, in the spirit of the Single European Sky, are pooling together services and offers and eliminating the restrictions caused by numerous state borders, which represent a hindrance to faster and more efficient air traffic.

“Still, airports and airlines in the region, which are by far the most exposed to the market risks are not undergoing such a processes, although they would be desirable to positive integrations, reduction of costs, provision of better services and offer, especially enabling more favourable opportunities for citizens to travel, do business or transport goods.”

Directors General of Civil Aviation Authorities as well as the Chief Executive Officers of the respective Air Navigation Service (ANS) providers of countries from the region signed a Letter of Intent on the Joint Service Provision Area Initiative (JSPAI) in South East Europe, under the auspices of the Regional Cooperation Council, on 29 April 2013.

The letter, amongst other things, confirms the willingness of national and regional authorities to engage their full capacity in working towards strengthening regional cooperation in air traffic in SEE with the aim of effective implementation of envisaged EU requirements, particularly in light of administrative and institutional weaknesses in the region.

The conference was co-organised by the RCC Secretariat and JSPA Initiative.


15.04.2014

Public Policy Masters Students from Hague visit RCC Secretariat

RCC Secretary General Goran Svilanovic talks to a group of students and professors from the Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme in Public Policy (Mundus MAPP) from Hague, Netherlands during their visit the RCC Secretariat

Regional Cooperation Council’s (RCC) Secretariat hosted a group of 26 students and professors from the Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme in Public Policy (Mundus MAPP) from Hague, Netherlands today.

The Mundus MAPP delegation was welcomed by the RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic, who explained the RCC’s nature and mandate through an interactive presentation, followed by an extensive dialogue with students. 

While highlighting the core role of the RCC: promotion of regional cooperation and the EU integration of the South East Europe (SEE); generation and coordination of projects of  regional character; and creation of appropriate climate for their implementation, Svilanovic stressed that the organisation’s main focus is economy and implementation of regionally endorsed SEE 2020 strategy.

“The SEE 2020 growth strategy is a core of our business in the years leading to the 2020.  Its main focus is creation of 1 million jobs in the region by that time. Now, it is of crucial importance for us to see that SEE 2020 strategy is becoming reality. The RCC with its partners and stakeholders has already  started working on the process of its implementation.”

This students’ visit is a part of a regular Mundus MAPP annual study trips organised with an aim to get the students acquainted with various organisations, institutes, departments, ministries, think tanks and non-governmental organisations, which work in the field of Public Policy.

The Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme in Public Policy is a two-year-long international Masters course funded by the European Commission and offered by four leading European insitutions: Central European University, Budapest (Hungary), International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands), Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (Spain) and the University of York (UK). The program is coordinated by Central  European University.  


02.04.2014

RCC’s SEE 2020 Strategy: Regional Action Plan for implementation of Western Balkans Research and Development Strategy for Innovation adopted

Participants of the Steering Committee for implementation of the Western Balkans Regional Research and Development (R&D) Strategy for Innovation. (Photo RCC/Nedima Hadziibrisevic)

Under the guidance of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, the Steering Committee of representatives of ministries of science from the Western Balkan countries, adopted in Split today the Regional Action Plan for 2014, defining specific activities for implementation of the Western Balkans Regional Research and Development (R&D) Strategy for Innovation.

The R&D Strategy was adopted by the ministers of science of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia on 25 October 2013 in Zagreb, Croatia.

The Plan includes organisation of the Regional Scientific Forum, aiming to boost science-industry collaboration and technology transfer; preparation of regional programme on technology transfer, targeting to stimulate industry-science collaboration, encourage marketable research results and value-creation; and adoption of the statutory documents of the Western Balkans Research and Innovation Strategy Exercise (WISE), with a key role to facilitate implementation of R&D Strategy.

Mladen Dragašević, Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat’s Senior Expert on Smart Growth, stressed the importance of establishment of WISE as future coordinator of R&D and Innovation dimension of South East Europe (SEE) 2020 Strategy.

“Regional action plan will play a fundamental role in placing key SEE 2020 Strategy actions and activities at the heart of national sectoral policies and be used for easier reporting on implemented and planned activities and progress achieved. It will ensure streamlined and integrated approach, as well as close cooperation between the different Strategy dimensions` stakeholders, in order to reach more sustainable and cost-effective solutions,“ said Dragašević.

Research and innovation are at the heart of the RCC’s SEE 2020 strategy, as they are important drivers of economic growth, and contributors to raising productivity and creating employment opportunities.

The first meeting of the Steering Committee after adoption of the Western Balkans R&D Strategy for Innovation was organised by the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat and Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports.

The Western Balkans R&D Strategy for Innovation and related documents are available at the following links:

http://www.rcc.int/docs/325/western-balkans-regional-r-and-d-strategy-for-innovation, and http://www.worldbank.org/en/events/2013/10/24/balkans-innovation-event

 

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

 


27.03.2014

Germany supports RCC’s public awareness activities with 50,000 euro grant

Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General (right), and Ulrike Knotz, German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, sign a 50,000 euro grant agreement supporting activities of the RCC, in Sarajevo on 27 March 2014. (Photo: RCC/Zoran Kanlic)

Agreement on 50,000 euro grant to support public awareness activities of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in 2014 was signed by the RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic and German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ulrike Knotz in Sarajevo today.

The contribution of the Federal Republic of Germany is to be used for communications and raising public awareness activities primarily on the organisation’s South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy. The funds will be spent on public information and communication materials, social media, media monitoring, and other awareness raising activities.

“The RCC very much appreciates the continuous support of Germany to organisation’s public information and awareness raising activities”, said Secretary General Svilanovic adding that “raising public awareness is extremely important for the successful implementation of our SEE 2020 strategy”.

“It is especially helpful this year, the year in which implementation of RCC-lead SEE 2020 growth strategy begins. Raising public awareness on importance of the strategy for the social and economic progress of the region, as well as reaching as far as possible to the public with the results of the strategy’s implementation is of crucial importance.”

Ambassador Knotz expressed satisfaction with cooperation with the RCC Secretariat since 2008.

“Germany is happy to have been supporting the RCC for the past six years, as well as its predecessor, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The fact that regional cooperation has improved significantly over the recent years is also an RCC achievement.”

The two officials expressed belief that successful beginning of SEE 2020 strategy implementation would not only start to improve living conditions in the region but also accelerate the participating countries’ journey along their EU accession paths.


19.03.2014

RCC’s South East Europe 2020 strategy topic of workshop for journalists held in Sarajevo

Western Balkan journalists gather for a two-day workshop devoted to Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)’s South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy, in Sarajevo, BiH, on 18-19 March 2014. (Photo: CEI)

A two-day workshop devoted to Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)’s South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy gathering journalists from the Western Balkans, ended in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, today.

The workshop provided journalists with the first-hand insight and information on the Strategy and key phases of its implementation that would be beneficial as references for later media reporting on the SEE2020-related issues.

SEE 2020 strategy – Jobs and Prosperity in a European Perspective, prepared by RCC, aims to provide for better quality of life for the citizens of the region and lead them out of the current crises. In practical terms, the strategy’s goals include creation of one million jobs in the region over the next 7 years, increasing energy efficiency by 9% and government productivity by 20%, doubling trade and investments, and finally, increasing productivity by one third.

Gazmend Turdiu, the RCC Deputy Secretary General, while welcoming the journalists said that the media can and should be leaders in promoting knowledge society, economic growth, European values, EU integration and reconciliation in the region.

“Journalists have an instrumental role in helping SEE2020 achieve its goal of improving living conditions in the region and bringing competitiveness and development back in focus by providing: reliable information, life-long learning, access to culture, quality entertainment, but also support for diversity, social cohesion, innovation, preservation of cultural heritage, investment in the creative industries and regional development.”

In her welcoming remarks, Margit Waestfelt, CEI Alternate Secretary General, stressed that CEI is well aware of the importance of the recovery of growth and jobs as a precondition for the citizens’ support to the path of Western Balkan countries to the accession to the European Union.

“This is the reason why the CEI in the year of its 25th anniversary is keen to confirm the validity of its working system, enhancing the regional cooperation through a combination of multilateral diplomacy and projects implementation for the mobilization of its transnational resources to the support of the recovery of Balkan growth,” said Waestfelt.

Seven governments from the region (Albania, Serbia, Kosovo*,Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Croatia) adopted the SEE 2020 strategy on 21 November 2013 thus firmly standing behind its goals.

The event, co-organized by the Central European Initiative (CEI) in cooperation with RCC Secretariat,  brought together journalists from Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo* and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was held back-to-back with the closing conference of the European Union (EU)-financed and CEI-led project, Improving Cooperation in SEE by Actions for Strengthening the RCC that lasted 28 months.

Address by Gazmend Turdiu, Deputy RCC Secretary General

Presentations:

 

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.


19.12.2013

European Commission supports work of RCC Secretariat with EUR 3.575 million grant

A 3,575,000 euro grant agreement supporting activities of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in 2014 was signed today in Brussels between the European Commission (EC) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).

The grant amount is significantly larger than the EC’s previous contributions to the work of the RCC, which amounted to approximately 800,000 euro per year, and is linked to increased support and expectations from the organization by the Commission.

The EC contribution will be used to implement the RCC Strategy and Work Programme in the part related to the South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy.

As 2014 will mark the beginning of SEE 2020 implementation, the RCC will focus its activities in four main areas of action: set up efficient mechanisms for coordination between governments, regional structures and the RCC, and facilitate establishment of intra-governmental coordination mechanisms on SEE 2020; establish a monitoring system to track progress on SEE 2020; support the establishment and help strengthen dimension coordinators; and provide direct interventions to implement SEE 2020 in areas where adequate structures or support programmes are missing.

The goal of the SEE 2020 strategy is to improve living conditions in the region and bring competitiveness and development back in focus, closely following the vision of the EU strategy Europe 2020. It stresses out the shared vision of the SEE economies to open up to 1 million new jobs by 2020, by enabling employment growth from 39% to 44%, increase of total regional trade turnover by more than double from 94 to 210 billion euro, the rise of the region’s GDP per capita from current 36% to 44% of the EU average, and the addition of 300,000 highly qualified people to the workforce.


02.10.2013

Regional Cooperation Council Board holds last meeting in 2013, supports final preparations for SEE 2020 growth strategy

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board RCC Board heard today a report by Secretary General on activities of the organization’s Secretariat in the period April-September 2013, as well as information on future plans.


The report focuses on final preparations for the upcoming implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016, particularly its core element, the South East Europe (SEE 2020) strategy for growth and new jobs in the region, which is currently being drafted under RCC coordination.


"We have just completed the first cycle of consultations with governments in the region, regional initiatives and international organizations on the draft SEE 2020", said Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General.

"The governments have identified food and beverage processing, and tourism, as priority areas of cooperation under SEE 2020. The goal is to finalize the strategy in the next month and a half, so that the ministers of economy from the region adopt it at their meeting in Sarajevo on 21 November 2013."

The Board was also informed about the 13th Coordination Meeting of the Troika of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), currently chaired by Romania, the RCC Secretariat and the European Union, held yesterday.

The RCC Board meets three times a year and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC participants contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.


The Report of the RCC Secretary General on the activities of the RCC Secretariat.

 


30.09.2013

RCC, GIZ agree to cooperate on foreign trade promotion, energy efficiency, legal reform and modernisation of municipal services

Goran Svilanovic (left), RCC Secretary General, Dr. Brigitte Heuel-Rolf (centre), GIZ Regional Director for Western Balkans, and Alexandra Hilbig (right), GIZ Manager for Open Regional Funds, sign Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in foreign trade promotion, energy efficiency, legal reform and modernisation of municipal services, in Sarajevo on 30 September 2013. (Photo RCC/Zoran Kanlic)

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the German Organization Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) signed in Sarajevo today a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in foreign trade promotion, energy efficiency, legal reform and modernisation of municipal services. The agreement foresees cooperation between the RCC Secretariat and GIZ until 31 March 2016.

“The focus will be on activities set within the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016, with the South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy as its central pillar,” said Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General.

“This memorandum will enhance cooperation between our two organisations, as both the RCC and the GIZ support countries of the region in their efforts to join the EU.”

“GIZ has been implementing the project Open Regional Funds for Southeast Europe (ORF) in the fields of legal reform, energy efficiency, foreign trade promotion and modernisation of municipal services on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development,” said Dr. Brigitte Heuel-Rolf, GIZ Regional Director for Western Balkans.

More concretely, cooperation in the field of foreign trade promotion will comprise support to implementation of the CEFTA Agreement, assistance to market surveillance institutions and regional business association networks in SEE.

In energy efficiency, the focus will be on strengthening the network of political studies schools, as intermediaries for public policy dialogue on climate change and sustainable use of energy; regional exchange towards establishing energy efficiency monitoring platforms, in the context of the work programme of the Energy Community; and funding of small-scale projects.

Legal reform cooperation foresees support to the establishment of a regional judiciary policy network, digitalisation of notary services, capacity building of the SEE law school network, and gender streamlining of the regional network of arbitration and mediation centres.

Modernization of municipal services aims at equipping relevant staff with tools and competencies necessary for providing those services to the public.

“Cooperation with the RCC has already shown good results through the establishment of the monitoring mechanism for the justice and home affairs strategy for South East Europe. In addition, we are currently discussing alignment of ORF projects with implementation of the RCC’s SEE 2020 strategy,” said Alexandra Hilbig, GIZ Manager for Open Regional Funds.


25.06.2013

Head of RCC Expert Pool receives 'Europe Contribution of the Year' award by European Movement in Serbia

Head of RCC Expert Pool, Jelica Minic (left), receives 'Europe Contribution of the Year' award by European Movement in Serbia, Belgrade, 25 June 2013. (Photo emins.org)

Jelica Minic, Head of Expert Pool at the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, has been awarded the ‘Europe Contribution of the Year’ award by the European Movement in Serbia for her contribution to European integration and values in Serbia.

President of the European Movement in Serbia, Vlastimir Matejic, explained that Ms Minic received the award for her long-term service in the civil society sector, diplomacy and the Regional Cooperation Council, including her work on the South East Europe 2020 growth strategy recently approved by South East European foreign ministers in Ohrid.

“Ms Minic is not only awarded for the Europe contribution of the year, but also of the whole decade”, said Matejic.

He reminded of Ms Minic’s contribution to the modern society and the European Movement in Serbia.

“There are many ways one can help their own country, working for others and the whole region”, said Minic.

“South East Europe is now a lively, dynamic area, with a new, more positive climate. I am happy to have been able to contribute to creating this new dynamics.”

The award was presented by Sasa Jankovic, Serbian Ombudsman and the last year’s winner.

The ‘Europe Contribution of the Year’ award has been presented for the 12th consecutive year for a speech, book, act or attitude of an individual, organization or a group of citizens who have significantly contributed to the process of European integration and promotion of European ideas and values in Serbia. 


17.06.2013

RCC Secretary General briefs diplomats in Sarajevo of results of the organization's 5th Annual Meeting

The RCC Secretariat briefs the diplomatic community in Sarajevo of results in implementing the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, the outcome of the RCC Annual Meeting held in Ohrid last month, and the state of regional cooperation in South East Europe. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 17 June 2012. (Photo: RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Goran Svilanovic, briefed today the diplomatic community in Sarajevo of results in implementing the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, the outcome of the RCC Annual Meeting held in Ohrid last month, and the state of regional cooperation in South East Europe.

Secretary General Svilanovic informed that participants of the Annual Meeting, as well as the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), gave full support to the RCC's work thus far, as well as to the new work programme of the organization for the period 2014-2016.


"The key element of the new RCC work programme is South East Europe (SEE) 2020 - a Job-Creating Growth and EU Integration Strategy, as the organization's response to the mounting socio-economic problems in the region", said Svilanovic.

“SEE 2020 wants to avoid a situation in which a region’s country enters the EU and is then in an immediate need of a bailout. The best way to avoid this scenario is to strengthen the competitiveness of the region, which is what SEE 2020 is all about.”

"Through SEE 2020, the region would target an employment growth rate by 12%, an increase in mutual trade by 230%, and a rise in its GDP from the current 38% to 46% of the EU average."

"The RCC's goal is to create a harmonised framework in regional cooperation, where all participants have clear roles and responsibilities in achieving the agreed goals within the SEE 2020 strategy. We expect that SEE 2020 will be adopted by the end of 2013."

Secretary General Svilanovic recalled the ability of the RCC to ensure all-inclusiveness in its work as another major success of the organization.

He congratulated Croatia on becoming an EU member in two weeks, underlying the importance of European perspective for all of the Western Balkans.

The RCC Secretary General thanked Jelica Minic, the outgoing Head of Expert Pool at the RCC Secretariat, for her invaluable contribution and utmost dedication to the RCC and regional cooperation in South East Europe in the course of the past five years.

The briefing gathered some 30 representatives of the diplomatic community in Sarajevo.

Annual Report of the RCC Secretary General on regional cooperation in South East Europe 2012-2013

RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016


16.05.2013

UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights pays visit to RCC Secretariat

Farida Shaheed, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, visited the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat today, to learn about efforts in fostering cultural and education cooperation in South East Europe.

Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General, informed Special Rapporteur Shaheed of the most important activities of the Secretariat in building human capital in South East Europe, stemming out of the regional development strategy South East Europe 2020. They include protection of cultural heritage, but also bringing additional 300,000 highly educated people on the job market in the next seven years.

Special Rapporteur Shaheed informed of her intention to assess Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to enhance the right of all persons to participate in cultural life. She highlighted the role of culture in bringing people together and helping fight prejudices and intolerance.

The discussion focused on education, protection of cultural heritage and cultural rights, youth involvement in political reforms, political and economic situation, and the importance of EU integration for regional cooperation in South East Europe.


16.05.2013

Regional Cooperation Council Secretary General meets chief executive of Vienna Economic Forum

Goran Svilanovic, Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General, met today with Ambassador Elena Kirtcheva, Secretary General of the Vienna Economic Forum (VEF), at the premises of the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo.

The two officials discussed political and economic situation in South East Europe, as well as ways to improve cooperation between the two institutions. In this context, Ambassador Kirtcheva suggested signing an agreement between the RCC and the VEF.

Secretary General Svilanovic outlined main activities of the RCC Secretariat in the coming years, centred around the regional development strategy South East Europe 2020, and its main goals, such as employment growth from 40% to 45%, increase in mutual trade by 230%, and the rise of the region’s GDP from the current 38% to 46% of the EU average.

Ambassador Kirtcheva provided update on activities of the VEF, and suggested that the 10th Vienna Economic Forum, to take place in November 2013 with participation of top government officials and businessmen, endorse the SEE 2020 strategy.

The officials agreed the two institutions would work closely in the coming months towards enabling the suggestions to come to life.


25.04.2013

Regional Cooperation Council Board adopts the organization’s new three-year strategy and work programme

Participants of the 20th meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 25 April 2013. (Photo: RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board adopted today the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016, centred around implementation of the South East Europe 2020 (SEE 2020) strategy, as the organization's contribution to overcoming economic crisis in the region.

"The main goal of SEE 2020 is economic and social growth in the region: employment growth by 12%, increase in mutual trade by 230%, the region's GDP rise from the current 38% to 46% of the EU average", said Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General.

"We also want to see an increase in the total inflow of direct foreign investments in the region by 120%, and in the number of people with university education on the labour market by 300,000. In order to make this happen, production, trade, investments and education must be improved, and our national governments must be far more efficient than they are nowadays."

The document brings back in the region's focus competitiveness and development, with the EU accession as another important goal, as it leans onto the EU strategy Europe 2020. Ministers of economy from the region are expected to adopt the strategy in November this year.

The RCC Board also adopted the new statute of the organization, accepted the Annual Report of the Secretary General on regional cooperation in South East Europe for 2012-2013, and heard his report on activities of the organization’s Secretariat in the period February-April 2013.

The 27-member RCC Board meets three times a year and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.

The Report of the RCC Secretary General on the activities of the RCC Secretariat

The new RCC statute will be available at the RCC website during the next week.

The RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016 and the Annual Report of the Secretary General on regional cooperation in South East Europe for 2012-2013, will be publicly available following the endorsement by the RCC Annual Meeting, in Ohrid, on 30 May 2013.


22.04.2013

Germany supports work of RCC Secretariat with a 50,000 euro grant

Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General (left), and Ulrike Knotz, German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, sign a 50,000 euro grant agreement supporting activities of the RCC, in Sarajevo on 22 April 2013. (Photo: RCC/Zoran Kanlic)

A 50,000 euro grant agreement supporting activities of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in 2013 was signed by Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General, and Ulrike Knotz, German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sarajevo today.

The contribution of the Federal Republic of Germany will be used to increase awareness about the RCC Secretariat’s work, primarily through organization of public events, such as the one marking the RCC anniversary, as well as production of the RCC Annual Report and a bi-monthly electronic newsletter.

“Germany’s support is instrumental for a successful fulfillment of the RCC mission of promoting mutual cooperation and European and Euro-Atlantic integration of South East Europe in order to inspire development in the region to the benefit of its people”, said Secretary General Svilanovic.

“We are especially proud to have ensured all-inclusiveness in our work, as a basic precondition for economic growth and overall progress in our region.”

Commending the work done so far by the RCC Secretariat, Ambassador Knotz pointed out that good communication is crucial for establishing understanding and awareness of what the RCC does.

“Germany is happy to have been supporting the RCC for the past five years, as well as its predecessor, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The fact that regional cooperation has improved significantly over the recent years is also an RCC achievement.”

The two officials expressed belief that the latest encouraging developments in the region, such as the last week’s agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, would provide conditions to bring regional cooperation in South East Europe to an even higher level in the future.


28.02.2013

Regional Cooperation Council Board amends statutory documents to reflect EU-mediated agreement on Kosovo* regional representation

The new RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic (first left) chairs the first meeting of the RCC Board in 2013, in Sarajevo on 28 February 2013. (Photo: RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

At its first meeting in 2013, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board decided to amend the statute and the list of participants of the organization, reflecting the results of the EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina.

“The participation of Kosovo* in the Regional Cooperation Council is a confirmation of the organization’s full dedication to ensuring all-inclusiveness in our activities. It shows that the region is able to take responsibility for its own future and create conditions for overall progress in the spirit of tolerance and cooperation”, said Goran Svilanovic, RCC Secretary General, following the decision.

The RCC Board also discussed the draft RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016, and heard a report by Secretary General on activities of the organization’s Secretariat in the period October 2012-February 2013, as well as information on future plans.

The Board was informed about the 11th Coordination Meeting between the SEECP Troika (Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Romania), the RCC Secretariat and the European Union, held yesterday.

The Board members congratulated Secretary General Svilanovic on the assumption of duties on 1 January 2013.

The 27-member RCC Board meets three times a year and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.

The Report of the RCC Secretary General on the activities of the RCC Secretariat.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.


27.02.2013

Foreign Minister Poposki visits RCC Secretariat, backs organization’s goals and activities

RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic (left), and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Poposki, met at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo on 27 February 2013. (Photo: RCC/Dado Ruvic)

The current Chair-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Poposki, paid a visit to the RCC Secretariat today to express support to the activities of the organization and congratulate Secretary General Goran Svilanovic on his recent appointment to the post.

The SEECP Chair underlined the need to enhance the European agenda within the SEECP activities and strengthen interaction among the SEECP participating States, in particular between the EU and non-EU member states.

“There is a need to work jointly to ensure a greater involvement and financial contribution of the EU in regional infrastructural projects, in the areas such as transport and energy”, said Minister Poposki.

In this context, he expressed readiness to further strengthen relations and cooperation with the RCC and its Secretariat.

The RCC Secretary General presented main RCC priorities in 2013, primarily those related to preparation of the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme (SWP) 2014-2016, with the regional growth strategy South East Europe (SEE) 2020 as its central pillar. He invited Minister Poposki to provide political support to SEE 2020.

“SEE 2020 is focused on turning over the present economic stagnation and downfall, and fully concentrated on economic and social growth. In order to make this happen, production, trade, investments and education must be improved, and our national governments must be far more efficient than they are nowadays.”

Secretary General Svilanovic informed about preparations for tomorrow’s RCC Board meeting, which is expected to debate the amended statute of the organization and the draft RCC SWP 2014-2016, as well as for the 5th RCC anniversary, marked today.


07.02.2013

Regional Cooperation Council receives award for extraordinary contribution to humanism

Head of RCC Expert Pool, Jelica Minic (left), receives on behalf of the RCC, the traditional Sloboda (Freedom) award of the International Peace Centre Sarajevo (IPC), presented by its President, Ibrahim Spahić, for an extraordinary contribution to humanism, fight for human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe and the world. Sarajevo, BiH, 7 February 2013. (Photo RCC/Dado Ruvic)

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) received in Sarajevo today the traditional Sloboda (Freedom) award of the International Peace Centre Sarajevo (IPC) for an extraordinary contribution to humanism, fight for human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe and the world. The award was presented at a special opening ceremony of the 29th international festival Sarajevo Winter 2013.

Receiving the award on behalf of the organization, Jelica Minic, Head of RCC Expert Pool, thanked for the honour and the recognition of the RCC work.

“The RCC will mark its 5th anniversary on 27 February and this award makes our birthday even more special. It is a proof that we did something well over the past period. I hope we will justify the award through our work in the future as well.”

“Our main activity this year is the preparation of the South East Europe 2020 strategy, which is our region’s answer to Europe 2020 strategy. It will try to help turn over the economic stagnation and downfall by fully concentrating on economic and social growth in the region.”

Ibrahim Spahić, President of the IPC Sarajevo, handed the award to the RCC for the organization’s outstanding role in developing euro-regional cooperation in South East Europe and for the creation of a stable and safe atmosphere for economic and social development.

Besides the Regional Cooperation Council, other Sloboda award winners for 2012 are: Irina Bokova, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe; Kurt Bergmann, initiator of the humanitarian project ‘Neighbour in Trouble’ from Austria; Nermina Kurspahić, Editor-in-Chief of the Odjek magazine; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the Association Alumni of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies (ACIPS) from BiH; the Peace Building Network in BiH; the Mak Dizdar Foundation; and the Mozaik Foundation.

Sarajevo Winter is a cultural festival held annually since the winter of 1984/1985, a year after Sarajevo was the host of the 14th Winter Olympic Games.

Speech by Head of RCC Expert Pool, Jelica Minic


18.10.2012

Regional Cooperation Council Board discusses state of cooperation in South East Europe, thanks outgoing Secretary General Biscevic

The RCC Board met in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 18 October 2012. (Photo: RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The last meeting in 2012 of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board heard today a report by RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on activities of the organization’s Secretariat in the period May-October 2012, primarily in relation to results achieved in the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, as well as information on the future plans.

“As our meeting today takes place shortly after the publication of the European Commission’s Enlargement Package 2012, let me express my hope that its findings and recommendations will serve as a fresh impetus for investing greater efforts in the region in overcoming current challenges and moving closer to meeting EU accession criteria”, said Secretary General Biscevic.

In the Package, the European Commission emphasized that it “looks forward to the RCC in further developing its role in regional cooperation as a platform for the promotion of issues of importance to the whole region and its EU perspective thus further mainstreaming regional cooperation in the countries’ political agenda”.

“I do believe that concrete RCC results, particularly within the South East Europe Investment Committee, the Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism of the regional strategy on justice and home affairs, the Task Force on Culture and Society, media development etc., although not explicitly referred to in the Enlargement Package, have greatly contributed towards the overall positive assessment of the regional cooperation”, added Biscevic. 

The RCC Board called upon the RCC Secretariat to open the process of drafting a new RCC Statute and agreed upon the dates of the Board meetings in 2013.

The Board members thanked the outgoing Secretary General Hido Biscevic for his dedicated work in promoting regional cooperation in South East Europe over the past five years, and gave mandate to the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Chairmanship-in-Office to sign the Agreement on the Assumption of Duties with the incoming RCC Secretary General Goran Svilanovic, who will take office on 1 January 2013.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all members of the RCC Board for the support provided to the mission of the Secretary General and of the organization, but also for the determination to have the regional cooperation in South East Europe function in the interest of all. My most sincere thanks go to each and every staff member of the RCC Secretariat who made implementation of this mission possible.”

The Board was informed about the 10th Coordination Meeting between the SEECP Troika (Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Romania), the RCC Secretariat and the European Union, held yesterday, as well as about the state of contributions to the RCC Secretariat’s budget for 2012 and 2013.

The 27-member RCC Board meets three times a year and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.

The Report of the RCC Secretary General on the activities of the RCC Secretariat.


04.10.2012

2.2 million euro project boosting women entrepreneurship in South East Europe kicks off

Women-led enterprises have direct impact on economic development, as they reduce use of safety net services and bring higher social and tax benefits for the economy, said Jelica Minic, Deputy Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General, at the Bosnia and Herzegovina launch of the project Women entrepreneurship – a job creation engine for South East Europe, in Sarajevo, today.

The purpose of the project, worth 2.2 million euro, is to help raise awareness on specifics of women entrepreneurship, enhance capacities of their networks and associations in South East Europe, and boost the entrepreneurship through combined public and private sector efforts.

The project is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), coordinated by the RCC Secretariat, and implemented by the South East European Center for Entrepreneurial Learning (SEECEL) and the Gender Task Force (GTF). It will be realized over the next three years in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.

“For a country or a region to compete successfully in the global economy, it is of paramount importance to capitalize on the full potential of its resources”, said Minic.

“Women suffer considerable disadvantages in terms of access to labor markets and face constraints in terms of sectors of economic activity in which they participate. They are often in a disadvantaged position in terms of the share of vulnerable employment: in South East Europe, most women still work in lower-paid, part-time or irregular jobs.”

“Governments can strongly contribute to promoting women entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation especially through small and medium enterprises as the main engine of growth and employment. Governments have a key role in establishing the policy framework and creating the right incentives that will produce smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.”

An important activity during the initial phases of the project will be to take stock of the gender structure of business ownership in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries. The project will record the number of permanently-owned women businesses, which will be used for the purpose of evidence-based policy making in support of women entrepreneurship.

The Women entrepreneurship – a job creation engine for South East Europe project reflects RCC priorities in economic and social development as specified in the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013: promotion of a single investment space through the South East Europe Investment Committee, identification of ways to improve access to finance, and mainstreaming of employment and social agenda into economic reform deliberations.

The regional project launch took place in Zagreb, Croatia, on 21 September 2012. As a platform for guiding, coordinating and sustaining regional cooperation, the RCC Secretariat will continue to support the project and women entrepreneurship in South East Europe.

 

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.


27.09.2012

As South East European ministers discuss measures to consolidate cooperation, RCC Secretary General Biscevic is awarded Bulgarian Golden Laurel medal

Participants of the meeting of SEECP Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held on 29 June 2011, in Becici, Montenegro. (Photo: Courstesy of Montenegrin Government)

The current state of affairs in South East Europe, broadened cooperation in the context of EU enlargement and steps to further enhance and consolidate regional cooperation topped the agenda of an informal meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the participating States of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), held in New York today, with participation of Hido Biscevic, Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General.

The Ministers reiterated their countries’ full commitment to the EU enlargement policy, stressing its transformative and stabilization impact on the region. They said that Croatia’s membership as of July next year, and beginning of the accession negotiations with Montenegro, should continue to provide an impetus for other aspiring countries. The Ministers underlined that, in spite of the current situation within the EU and difficulties arising from the economic and financial crisis, the future of South East Europe lies firmly and solely within the EU as a common strategic choice.

Participating in the debate, RCC Secretary General Biscevic stressed that additional joint and mutually supportive efforts on the part of the region are needed to ensure its EU future, as “anything else would lead to a quarantine syndrome for the core of the region, with a prolonged strategic status quo or new division lines across the Western Balkans”.

“Complimentary to the EU enlargement as a stabilizing power for the region, the time has come to elaborate regional economic recovery and development plans that may additionally support durable stability, in particular in light of unresolved issues and prolonged EU accession process.”

The Ministers shared views and ideas on strengthening regional cooperation and consolidating its essential framework – the SEECP. The reform of the SEECP has been on the agenda for some time now and several concrete suggestions were made at the New York meeting: to hold regular thematically focused and targeted SEECP Summit meetings, to have more regular ministerial meetings, to enhance the position of SEECP National Coordinators, etc.

The Foreign Ministers said the work of the RCC Secretariat is an invaluable platform for providing tangible and concrete results in many priority sectors. They called for a smooth transition of the RCC management to the incoming Secretary General and highly praised the work done since the inception of the organization by Secretary General Biscevic.

On the margins of the meeting, Nickolay Mladenov, Bulgarian Foreign Minister, awarded RCC Secretary General Biscevic with the Golden Laurel medal, for his valuable contribution to and inspiring leadership in promoting tolerance, dialogue, moderation and mutual understanding as the essential pillars of regional cooperation in the complex South East European environment. 


19.09.2012

South East European Military Intelligence Chiefs meet in Sofia

Participants of the 4th conference of the South East European Military Intelligence Chiefs, Sofia, Bulgaria, 19 September 2012. (Photo: Courtesy of the Defence Information Service of Bulgaria)

The 4th conference of the South East European Military Intelligence Chiefs (SEEMIC) was held in Sofia today focusing on military-political and security situation in South East Europe. Special attention was devoted to challenges facing the military intelligence organizations associated with activities of various terrorist and extremist structures, organized crime and illegal trafficking in human beings, weapons and drugs.

This year the forum was co-chaired by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Defence Information Service of Bulgaria. It was attended by South East European military intelligence chiefs or their deputies, representing ten countries from South East Europe in the SEEMIC format, with the support of the Regional Cooperation Council and representatives of the EU Military Staff Intelligence Division.

During the conference, the Turkish military intelligence officially joined the SEEMIC forum.

Avgustina Tzvetkova, Deputy Minister of Defence of Bulgaria, opened the conference underlying that the new strategic security environment requires united efforts to meet emerging challenges.

"Cooperation in the field of intelligence, be it simply bilateral, is always difficult and accompanied by a number of limitations. This is why the SEEMIC conference is a remarkable achievement on the way to building a better world for the future generations."

The delegates were addressed by Vesselin Ivanov, Director of the Bulgarian Defence Information Service, Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General, and representatives of the EU Military Staff Intelligence Division. A welcoming address was delivered to the conference delegates on behalf of Phillip Ritcheson, Head of the Intelligence Division of NATO's International Military Staff.

Deputy RCC Secretary General Minic emphasized that the SEEMIC forum is one of the most important and successful regional initiatives in South East Europe and that the RCC deeply appreciated the full support and involvement of relevant NATO and EU structures.

For the first time, a joint analytical paper on contemporary challenges and threats in the region was drafted. The participants also approved basic terms of reference for the organization and competences of the SEEMIC conference.

In his closing remarks, Director Ivanov said that concerted efforts of the services in the region are an effective mechanism of addressing security problems in South East Europe. He thanked the delegates for their active and constructive participation and wished them all every success in their responsible work.

The 5th SEEMIC conference will be hosted by Croatia in September 2013.


28.06.2012

RCC Task Force on Culture and Society meeting agrees to reinforce protection of cultural heritage in South East Europe

Participants of the third meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council Task Force on Culture and Society, held in Prcanj, Montenegro, on 27-28 June 212. (Photo: Courtesy of RCC’s Task Force on Culture and Society)

The Third Meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Task Force on Culture and Society (TFCS) ended today in Prčanj, Montenegro, with an agreement to finalize the establishment of Ljubljana Process national task forces, necessary for implementing the project ‘Sustaining the Rehabilitation of Cultural Heritage in the Western Balkans’.

It is expected that the 500,000 EUR worth project contract will be concluded between the European Commission and the RCC Secretariat next month.

The two-day meeting adopted the Narrative Report of the TFCS Secretariat for the period April-June 2012 and endorsed the Needs Assessment Report: Political Sustainability of the Ljubljana Process, prepared by the project’s Expert Board.

In her opening address, Deputy RCC Secretary General Jelica Minic said that preserving and further improving multi-cultural harmony and inter-religious relations is of particular importance for the entire region and in particular for Western Balkans.

“Achievements of the Ljubljana Process on cultural heritage rehabilitation require greater involvement of relevant institutions from the region, including establishment of national teams which will work towards fulfilling planned tasks on country levels”, said Minic.

“I believe that the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society, assisted by the strategic partnerships of national, regional, European and international stakeholders, is ready to respond to emerging tasks of concrete and result-oriented regional cooperation, to the benefit of institutions, organizations and individuals devoted to promotion and development of culture in our region.”

The meeting presented the Task Force website (http://tfcs.rcc.int) and discussed possibilities for improving the visibility of the Ljubljana Process, including development of printed brochures and electronic presentations of rehabilitation projects.

The RCC Task Force on Culture and Society promotes regional cultural cooperation in South East Europe by creating a platform for dialogue among relevant stakeholders. It was established in June 2011, with the seat in Cetinje, Montenegro.

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22.06.2012

RCC briefs diplomats in Sarajevo of results of its 4th Annual Meeting

The RCC Secretariat briefs the diplomatic community in Sarajevo of results of the 4th Annual Meeting of the organization and the related SEECP events, held in Belgrade on 12-15 June 2012. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 22 June 2012. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The Secretariat of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) briefed today the diplomatic community in Sarajevo of results of the 4th Annual Meeting of the organization and the related South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) events, held in Belgrade last week.

RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic informed that the organization’s members emphasized the crucial RCC role in boosting cooperation and supporting European integration in South East Europe. They reconfirmed their full support to the organization, underlining that it has become a well-established, trusted and reliable partner in building and strengthening ties among countries and in promoting stability, reconciliation and prosperity in the region.

Representatives of 46 RCC members, the SEECP Heads of State and Government, as well as the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, expressed gratitude for the work of the first and outgoing RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic. The Ministers appointed and the Heads approved of Goran Svilanovic as the new Secretary General as of 1 January 2013.

“Since the last RCC Annual Meeting and after four and a half years of our work, the region reached a point of crucial decisions regarding its EU future, advancement in the process of reconciliation and rapprochement, relaxed and widened human contacts, and more concrete regional cooperation”, said Biscevic.

“Ways will now have to be devised to ensure a solid, uninterrupted cooperation based on a greater regional responsibility, a genuine political commitment and an effective capacity in the RCC members from South East Europe to implement commitments made at the regional level.”

Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minic, presented concrete achievements of the RCC thus far. She gave an overview of RCC efforts in streamlining regional initiatives and task forces to make regional activities more focused and efficient.

The briefing gathered some 25 representatives of the diplomatic community in Sarajevo.

The Annual Report of the RCC Secretary General on regional cooperation in South East Europe 2011-2012, outlining the achievements, is available at the RCC website www.rcc.int. Follow us at twitter.com/rccint.


20.06.2012

Germany grants 50,000 euro to support work of RCC Secretariat

Hido Biscevic (left), RCC Secretary General, and Ulrike Knotz, German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, and German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ulrike Knotz, signed in Sarajevo today a 50,000 euro grant agreement in support of the work of the RCC Secretariat in 2012.

The agreement entails a contribution of the Federal Republic of Germany to RCC Secretariat’s communication activities. It will be used for media subscriptions, public information materials and awareness raising activities.

Amongst others, the funds have been allocated for the production of the RCC Annual Report and a bi-monthly electronic newsletter, as well as for the organization of public events, such as the one marking the RCC anniversary.

“Germany has been a key supporter of the work of the Regional Cooperation Council since the very beginning of its operation, in 2008”, said Secretary General Biscevic.

“I am especially glad that Germany has recognized the importance of communication for the realization of the RCC mission to promote mutual cooperation and European and Euro-Atlantic integration of South East Europe in order to inspire development in the region to the benefit of its people.”

Ambassador Knotz expressed satisfaction with cooperation with the RCC Secretariat over the past almost five years.

“Germany has strongly supported regional stabilization and cooperation already from the days of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. We consider it important for European integration, economic and social development of the countries of the region.”

The two officials expressed belief that the grant would help create conditions for an overall progress of South East Europe and a climate of tolerance and encouragement.


25.05.2012

RCC-supported conference discusses higher education in Western Balkans

A two-day international conference in support of higher education reform in Western Balkans ended in Petrovac, Montenegro, today.

The event discussed the role of professional administrators and public-private partnerships in developing higher education systems in the region, as well as new institutionalised arrangements for regional cooperation.

The conference dubbed ‘Towards Joint Regional Roadmap in Higher Education Structural Reforms’ also explored possibilities of accelerating the region’s convergence towards European Higher Education Area and the EU policy in this field.

It was organised by the Ministry of Education and Sport of Montenegro, in cooperation with the Universities of Montenegro and Novi Sad. The event was held under the auspices of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and Novi Sad Initiative.

The participants were greeted by Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minic, who emphasized a vital role of higher education institutions in creating smart, sustainable and inclusive economies as they are the only institutions to provide for all sides of the triangle of education, research and innovation.

“Petrovac regional conference is being organised under the scheme of Tempus Project – Building Capacity for Structural Reform in Higher Education of Western Balkan Countries, a project firmly supported by the Regional Cooperation Council from its initial phase, in compliance with recognized importance of its main task to find feasible joint solutions for current challenges and facilitate further advances in effective higher education structural reforms in the Western Balkans”, said Jelica Minic.

Welcome address was also delivered by Deputy Minister of Education and Sports of Montenegro, Mubera Kurpejović, followed by introductory remarks of other partners.

The meeting gathered representatives of the ministries of education from the RCC members from the Western Balkans and the EU, rectors, vice rectors and professors from the Universities in the region, higher education authorities from the EU, as well as representatives of respective regional and European agencies involved in creation of policies in higher education.

Promotion of education reform in the region, with emphasis on higher education, including through integration with the European Higher Education Area, further convergence with European Qualification Framework and upgrade of sector’s management capacities  are priorities of the RCC Secretariat’s work, set in the organisation’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.


15.05.2012

Regional Cooperation Council Board meets in Sarajevo, accepts annual, financial reports

The second meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board in 2012 accepted today the Annual Report 2011-2012 of the organization’s Secretary General. It also approved the Secretary General’s financial report for 2011.

“The Annual Report highlights developments in regional cooperation in South East Europe, points to the remaining political and socio-economic issues in the region, focuses on the state of relations of the South East European countries with the EU, and presents the results of the RCC Secretariat in implementing the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013”, said Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General.

Secretary General Biscevic singled out transfer of the South East European Investment Committee from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the RCC, adoption of the Regional Strategic Document and Action Plan 2011-2013 on Justice and Home Affairs, cooperation of defence ministries and military intelligence, regional cooperation of public service broadcasters, as well as establishment of the Task Force on Culture and Society, as key RCC achievements over the past year.

“Another important element is cooperation with EU institutions in associating RCC Secretariat’s activities more closely to the enlargement agenda and objectives of Europe 2020 strategy.”

Moreover, Secretary General Biscevic presented his regular report covering the last two months of activities of the RCC Secretariat, shared information on future events and the coordination of activities between the SEECP Troika (Montenegro, Serbia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), the European Commission and the RCC Secretariat, as well as preparations for the upcoming Annual Meeting of the organizations, to be held in Belgrade on 13 June 2012.

The participants reviewed candidacies for the post of RCC Secretary General, with the selected candidate to be appointed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) at their meeting in Belgrade, on 14 June 2012, and approved by the SEECP Heads of State and Government the following day.

The RCC Board meets three times a year and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.

The Regional Cooperation Council Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 is available on the RCC website www.rcc.int, along with the latest Report on Activities of the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat.


16.03.2012

CEI project of strengthening the RCC launched in Sarajevo to support stronger regional cooperation in Western Balkans

Participants of the kick-off meeting for the project Improving Cooperation in South-East Europe by Actions for Strengthening the Regional Cooperation Council, held in Sarajevo on 16 March 2012. (Photo: Central European Initiative)

More than 50 participants of the kick-off meeting for the project Improving Cooperation in South-East Europe by Actions for Strengthening the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) agreed in Sarajevo today that enhancing RCC role is vital for upgrading regional cooperation. 

The meeting was opened by Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General, and Giorgio Rosso Cicogna, Alternate Secretary General of the Central European initiative (CEI). They underlined the importance of regional cooperation for the integration of Western Balkan countries in the European Union.

“The project with CEI will strengthen the RCC capacity so that the organization is able to contribute more strongly to the economic, social and cultural development of the region on concrete issues”, said Deputy RCC Secretary General Minic. “Such issues include development of air and rail transport, research and development, increase in investment, social cohesion, as well as preservation of museums and cultural heritage in South East Europe.”

CEI Alternate Secretary General Cicogna recalled that “the CEI Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed in Budva, Montenegro (2010), and in Trieste, Italy (2011), that it is important for the CEI to cooperate with the EU Commission to implement programmes and policies of the latter. The project with the RCC represents a concrete achievement in this direction”.

Yngve Engstroem, Head of the Regional Programmes Unit at the Directorate General for Enlargement, European Commission, pointed out that the project should support the RCC in providing regional leadership. In this regard, the RCC should be fully capable to guide regional cooperation in South East Europe as a self-sustained engine of cooperation.

Other participants, including Ivan Curzolo from the South East Europe Transnational Cooperation Pogramme, Libor Krkoska from the EBRD, and Lothar Jaschke from the European External Action Service, also shared their insights into the ways regional cooperation in the Western Balkans could be further developed.

The project, implemented by the CEI, will support regional cohesion in South East Europe and the EU enlargement process, and strengthen the RCC Secretariat. It is financed by the European Union through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance – IPA Regional Programme 2010.

 

Presentation by Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General.

More information on the project Improving Cooperation in South-East Europe by Actions for Strengthening the Regional Cooperation Council.


15.03.2012

Regional Cooperation Council Board holds its first meeting in 2012, in Sarajevo

Assessment of the first year of implementation of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, and the report of the organization’s Secretary General on the activities of the Secretariat over the past three months, were in focus of today’s meeting of the RCC Board, held in Sarajevo.

“The main objective of the self-assessment, conducted by the RCC Secretariat, is to review the relevance, impact and sustainability of the activities of the organization carried out in 2011. I am pleased that after the first year of implementation of the three-year Strategy, the completion rate is close to 50%”, said Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General, while presenting the draft findings.

He added that the RCC has also started discussing its role beyond 2013, possibly entailing closer alignment with the recommendations of the European Commission’s Enlargement Package, while taking into account the inherent role of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), as the political umbrella of the RCC.

The RCC Secretary General reiterated the importance of an all-inclusive cooperation in South East Europe and, in that context, welcomed the agreement reached by Belgrade and Pristina on the participation of Kosovo in regional fora. Thus, Kosovo for the first time participated in the RCC Board meeting under the new arrangements.

“I also welcome Croatia’s ratification of the Accession Treaty with the EU and Serbia’s getting the EU candidate status, as an important achievement for the countries themselves and a positive stimulus for the rest of the region, which confirms its enlargement perspective.”

In his report on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat since November 2011, Secretary General Biscevic highlighted the transfer of the South East European Investment Committee from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the RCC, which became effective at the end of 2011.

He shared information on the work planned for the next three months and on the coordination of activities between the SEECP Troika (Montenegro, Serbia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), the European Commission and the RCC Secretariat.

Secretary General Biscevic expressed hope that the countries of the region will assume a greater responsibility in providing political support in favour of large scale regional projects, such as rehabilitation of railway systems in South East Europe.

The RCC Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.

The Regional Cooperation Council Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 is available on the RCC website www.rcc.int, along with the latest Report on Activities of the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat.


13.03.2012

RCC Secretary General, BiH Foreign Minister meet in Sarajevo

Hido Biscevic (left), RCC Secretary General, and Zlatko Lagumdzija, BiH Foreign Minister, at the meeting in Sarajevo on 13 March 2012. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, held consultations with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zlatko Lagumdzija, in Sarajevo today.

Secretary General Biscevic informed Minister Lagumdzija of the evolution of the RCC since its establishment four years ago, as well as the ongoing discussion on possible new focus of the organization after 2013, amid current discussions about the future of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), of which the RCC is an operational arm.

In this context, the RCC Secretary General drew attention to a possible further alignment of RCC activities with the regional dimension of the EU accession process in South East Europe.

“The enlargement process needs to continue to avoid imbalance in the region. Croatia’s accession in 2013 and recently-awarded candidacy status to Serbia are very encouraging. Giving Montenegro and Serbia a date for the start of accession talks would be the next logical step.”

Secretary General Biscevic also welcomed the recently reached agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on participation of Kosovo in regional fora as an important contribution to an inclusive regional cooperation.

“In sum, I see three important preconditions for further development of South East Europe: continued EU enlargement, consolidation of regional cooperation, and implementation of regional developmental projects. As for the latter, we at the RCC are especially keen to see the Ljubljana-Istanbul railway and the Zagreb-Belgrade waterway reconstructed and restored, which would also benefit Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Minister Lagumdzija singled out regional cooperation as a priority of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s foreign policy and pointed to the importance for the country of the RCC being seated in Sarajevo. He underlined that the RCC, as the only homemade regional structure, needs to be supported on a political, awareness-raising and technical level.

The meeting was part of the RCC Secretary General’s regular consultations with political leaders in South East Europe to exchange views on developments in the region and perspectives of enhancing further regional cooperation as a key element on the way towards EU membership.


06.03.2012

RCC Secretary General meets Minister of Foreign Affairs in Skopje

Hido Biscevic (right), RCC Secretary General, met with Nikola Poposki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in Skopje on 6 March 2012. (Photo: Courtesy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), met in Skopje today with Nikola Poposki, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as the incoming chair of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).

The talks focused on political and economic developments in South East Europe, including resolution of bilateral issues that have adverse effect on regional cooperation. The high officials discussed the state of play of regional cooperation within the SEECP and its future with a view to enhancing the RCC role, especially beyond 2013.

Minister Poposki said his country was preparing the programme and the timetable of the most important events during the SEECP chairmanship and, in that respect, expressed interest in furthering cooperation and coordination with the RCC.

The RCC Secretariat’s assessment of its own work in implementing the first year of the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, which has just been completed, was singled out as an important element in ensuring a successful future work of the Secretariat.

Secretary General Biscevic underlined that the EU enlargement dynamics should continue, and stressed the usefulness of further alignment of the RCC role with the EU Enlargement Package.

The provisional agenda of the incoming SEECP chair was also discussed, as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prepares to take-over the one-year rotating chairmanship from Serbia in June this year.

The RCC Secretary General met with advisors to President Gjorge Ivanov and with the State Secretary for EU Affairs Jovan Andonov, who underlined the importance of regional cooperation in general, especially for further EU enlargement.

The meeting was part of the RCC Secretary General’s regular consultations with political leaders in South East Europe to exchange views on developments in the region and perspectives of enhancing further regional cooperation as a key element on the way towards EU membership.


31.01.2012

RCC Secretary General, Serbian Foreign Minister meet in Belgrade

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), met in Belgrade today with Vuk Jeremic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and the current chair of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), to talk about regional cooperation and political developments in South East Europe.

The two officials discussed general shape of developments in the region, including the impact of unresolved issues on the European Union (EU) enlargement process. In addition, they evaluated the current situation in the EU itself.

“It is important that the enlargement dynamics is preserved in order to fully stabilize the region of South East Europe”, said Secretary General Biscevic.

“At the same time, efforts by Belgrade and Pristina to find a solution to the latter’s representation at regional fora must be encouraged to support all-inclusive regional cooperation.”

The two officials agreed to intensify discussion on the future of regional cooperation, with a view to strengthen the roles of the SEECP and the RCC.

The meeting was held ahead of the informal meeting of the SEECP ministers of foreign affairs, held in Belgrade today, with participation of Secretary General Biscevic.


08.12.2011

Regional Cooperation Council Board meets in Sarajevo today, adopts budget

Meeting of the RCC Board, held in Sarajevo, BiH, on 8 December 2011. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The Board of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) reviewed today in Sarajevo the activities of the organization over the past three months, adopted the RCC Secretariat’s budget for 2012, and provided guidance for the future work of the organization.

“Despite residual complexities, South East Europe has continued to move forward, creating conditions for enhanced regional cooperation, ownership and responsibility”, said Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General, in his report on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat since September 2011 to the 28-member supervisory Board.

“This progress is also recognized in the European Commission’s Enlargement Package 2011-2012. In the period ahead, the RCC Secretariat will focus on aligning its work more closely with the Package priorities, to foster EU accession of the enlargement countries.”

In this light, Secretary General Biscevic informed about ongoing initial discussions on the ways to enhance, consolidate and stabilize regional cooperation.

The report reflects progress in implementing the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, with the main achievements including: the transfer of the South East European Investment Committee from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the RCC; the adoption of the Regional Strategic Document on Justice and Home Affairs, its action Plan, and monitoring and evaluation mechanism; development of regional security cooperation mechanisms; the establishment of the Task Forces on Culture and Society and on the Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative; as well as the signing of a protocol on regional cooperation in education and training among members of the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe.

The Board members stressed the need for the region to find ways to respond to the harsh effects of the current economic crisis by pooling resources around infrastructure and transport projects. The project of reconstructing and modernizing the railways systems in South East Europe was referred to as having a great potential.

At the meeting, Secretary General Biscevic shared information on the work planned for the next three months and on the coordination of activities between the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Troika (Montenegro, Serbia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), the European Commission and the RCC Secretariat.

The RCC Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.


16.11.2011

European Commission’s Director General for Enlargement visits RCC Secretariat

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic (right), welcomed Director General for Enlargement of the European Commission, Stefano Sannino, at RCC premises in Sarajevo, BiH, on 16 November 2011. (Photo RCC/Dado Ruvic)

Director General for Enlargement of the European Commission, Stefano Sannino, visited the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in Sarajevo today, to discuss regional cooperation with RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic.

Secretary General Biscevic informed about RCC activities and implementation of the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, designed to support a lasting consolidation of peace, stability, and economic and social development of South East Europe.

The two officials talked about political situation in South East Europe and the region’s European integration, in view of the Commission’s Enlargement Package 2011-2012, published last month.

“Regional cooperation is an important element of European integration, which in turn is an indispensible tool for a durable stabilization of the region. In this context, we also discussed the future RCC role”, said Director General Sannino.

“The RCC’s role in the context of the Enlargement Package is of particular importance. This is why we very much welcome implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, as it has been aligned with EC recommendations.”

Secretary General Biscevic underlined a need for the region to reflect on the findings of the Enlargement Package, work out the unresolved bilateral issues, and focus on concrete, development-oriented cooperation, particularly in the field of transport infrastructure.

“By upgrading regional ownership to enhanced regional responsibility, delivering concrete and visible results to the benefit of the people of the region and relying on the stimulating effects of the EU enlargement policy, we could produce the best response strategy to the needs of the countries from the region. This can become an effective, long-lasting contribution to enhancing positive developments in South East Europe.”

The two officials agreed to continue meeting on a regular basis to evaluate progress in the region and the contribution the two institutions can make in this respect.


10.11.2011

RCC Secretary General Biščević meets EU Commissioner Füle over regional cooperation

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biščević, met in Brussels today with EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, to talk about current situation in the region and regional cooperation in view of the last month’s European Commission’s Enlargement Package.

Commissioner Füle and Secretary General Biščević emphasised the need for the Western Balkan countries to tackle more vigorously remaining unresolved issues in order to keep the enlargement momentum.

They discussed effects of the economic crisis on the region and its social impact, and called for a greater regional cooperation and implementation in priority areas, such as infrastructure and transport.

Secretary General Biščević informed Commissioner Füle about the most important achievements of the first year of implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 in the priority areas of economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital, parliamentary cooperation, and media. He underlined the next week's take-over by the RCC Secretariat of the South East European Investment Committee from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


05.10.2011

RCC Secretary General, Albanian Deputy Prime Minister meet ahead of key European decisions affecting the region

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), met today in Tirana with Edmond Haxhinasto, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania, to discuss regional cooperation and developments in South East Europe ahead of European Union’s progress reports due later this month.

“Decisions of European institutions over the next few months will have a profound impact on the future of Western Balkans”, said Biscevic. “In this context, European principles in regional cooperation should be strengthened to ensure self-sustainability and regional responsibility.”

Deputy Prime Minister Haxhinasto stressed a need for pragmatic solutions in ensuring all-inclusiveness of regional cooperation, for the sake of economic and social development, and overall stability of South East Europe.

The two officials exchanged ideas on the future institutional set-up of regional cooperation. They also stressed a need for a stronger political support to major regional projects.

The meeting is a part of a series of consultations the RCC Secretary General has been undertaking with regional leaders in the course of implementation of the RCC Strategy 2011-13.


23.09.2011

RCC Secretary General meets South East European foreign ministers in New York

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, took part in an informal meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII), held in New York yesterday at the margins of the UN General Assembly session.

The meeting was initiated by Vuk Jeremic, Foreign Minister of Serbia, the chair of the three initiatives.

The participants welcomed the exchange of views in this format. They stressed a need to strengthen cooperation and synergy among members of SEECP, CEI and AII, in circumstances of profound and deep changes of international agenda and developments in the region. This particularly refers to the ways the EU enlargement process will be shaped and translated into decisions concerning the aspiring countries in Western Balkans.

Special attention was paid to increasing economic cooperation in South East Europe in light of the current crisis and a long standing need to upgrade infrastructure and transport facilities in the region.

The participants agreed that a thorough approach is needed in discussing future structure and institutional shape of regional cooperation. Suggestions were made to set up an elaboration group to open a debate on the issue under the current Serbian Chairmanship-in-Office of regional cooperation initiatives. Initial inputs are expected to be based on RCC experience shared with the Serbian Chairmanship, with a view to prepare a set of ideas for further elaboration at forthcoming political meetings within the SEECP framework. 


15.09.2011

RCC Board meets in Sarajevo to discuss activities of the organization

Meeting of the RCC Board, held in Sarajevo, BiH, on 15 September 2011. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The 28-member Board of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) met in Sarajevo today, to review activities of the past trimester and set course for the work of the organization until the end of the year.

Secretary General of the organization, Hido Biscevic, reported to the Board on details of implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.

"Regardless of oscilations in political and socio-economic conditions in South East Europe, the region has continued to move forward", said Biscevic. "It is now entering a phase where regional cooperation and ownership need to move towards an all-inclusive regional responsibility."

"One of key instruments in this effort should be the focus on large-scale regional projects, which is what the RCC is advocating for, through its activities in economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital and parliamentary cooperation."

Secretary General Biscevic highlighted a successful implementation of the Regional Strategic Document and Action Plan on Justice and Home Affairs, adopted this year; establishment of the Secretariat of the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society; and transfer of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s South East European Investment Committee to the RCC, expected to begin by the end of the year.

He also shared information on the coordination of activities between the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Troika (Montenegro, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and the RCC Secretariat.

The RCC Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union.


07.09.2011

RCC Secretary General discusses regional affairs and organization’s activities with senior U.S. and World Bank officials

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), met yesterday in Washington D.C. with Phil Reeker, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and a number of senior U.S. officials; as well as with Philippe Le Houerou, Vice President of the World Bank for Europe and Central Asia Region.

Secretary General Biscevic informed in detail about RCC activities and implementation of the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, which were deemed important for a lasting consolidation of peace and stability, economic and social development of South East Europe.

The U.S. officials – who also included Dan Rosenblum, Coordinator for Assistance to Europe and Eurasia; Jennifer Brush, Director of South-Central Europe Office; and Raffi Gregorian, U.S. National Coordinator for the RCC – confirmed a continued U.S. support to the RCC. They stressed that South East Europe remains high on the agenda of their government’s administration, especially in view of wider changes in international relations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Reeker expressed particular interest in the current affairs in the region and the state of EU and Euro-Atlantic integration which were jointly assessed as an indispensible tool for a durable stabilization of the region. In this context, importance of further enhancement of RCC role and mandate was particularly stressed.

Secretary General Biscevic also underlined that everyone in the region should benefit equally from regional cooperation in the interest of its stability. He confirmed that all-inclusiveness remains the principal norm of RCC work.

The officials agreed that infrastructure development should continue to be in the region’s focus, with expected more active involvement of the governments of South East Europe.

The meeting with Vice President Le Houerou discussed possible World Bank contribution to the implementation of the RCC Strategy, with a special focus on infrastructure development.

Secretary General informed of the RCC Annual Meeting and related South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) events in Budva, Montenegro, in June this year, when a notion on the importance of regional infrastructure projects was met with high interest.

Both officials agreed that projects to reconstruct and modernize railways networks in South East Europe carried high potential for revival of national economies and inclusion of the region into broader European networks, as shown by a recent World Bank study on railway reform in South East Europe, presented to the public this June.

In this context, the World Bank and the RCC will continue joint activities with the governments in the region in concretizing the projects.


13.07.2011

RCC, SIDA sign 2.2 million Euros agreement to support women entrepreneurship in South East Europe

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) signed today in Sarajevo a 2.2 million Euros worth agreement aiming to boost women entrepreneurship in South East Europe (SEE) through combined public and private sector effort.

The project “Women entrepreneurship – a job creation engine for South East Europe”, will promote best policy practices in women entrepreneurship and capacity building support to women entrepreneurs’ associations in SEE.

Supervised and coordinated by the RCC, the project will be implemented by two regional organizations: the South East Europe Center for Entrepreneurial Learning (SEECEL) and the Gender Task Force (GTF). The inception phase of the project starts immediately, but its full-fledged implementation will take place over the course of 3 years, 2012-2014.

The project clearly reflects RCC’s priorities in the area of economic and social development as specified in the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013: promotion of a single investment space through the SEE Investment Committee, identifying ways to improve access to finance, mainstreaming employment and social agenda into economic reform deliberations.


11.07.2011

RCC organizes preparatory meeting for ministerial conference on Western Balkans strategy for research and development

Zagreb hosted a preparatory meeting today for the Ministerial Conference on Regional Strategy for Research and Development for Innovation for Western Balkans, to be held in November 2011. The event was organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat.

Participants discussed four mid-term objectives of the Strategy: improving policy-making, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and governance of national innovation systems; strengthening the science-base; accelerating commercialization and deepening collaboration with the business sector; increasing business research and development and facilitating innovative start-up companies.

At the opening of the event, Head of RCC Secretariat’s Building Human Capital Unit Mladen Dragasevic said the aim of the Strategy is to interconnect national research and innovation systems, thus promoting overall competitiveness of the region.

 “The Regional Strategy will identify existing research capacities and ways of improving cooperation among Western Balkan institutes and researchers. It is a regional priority in the area of building human capital, in line with the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.”

Representatives of respective ministries from the Western Balkan countries, the World Bank and the European Commission, as well as representatives of the RCC Secretariat, debated future scope of activities and an optimal module for implementation of the Strategy.

The Strategy will recognize priorities in terms of legal requirements, infrastructure, education and training, policies and programmes to be implemented by the beneficiary entities. The technical assistance is financed by the European Commission through a Multi-Beneficiary Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance project.

The Ministerial Conference on Regional Strategy for Research and Development for Innovation for Western Balkans is planned to take place in November 2011, in Belgrade, Serbia.


05.07.2011

RCC Secretariat briefs diplomatic community in Sarajevo on implementation of its work strategy and results of 3rd Annual Meeting

Representatives of diplomatic community in Sarajevo at RCC Secretariat’s briefing on implementation of its work strategy and results of third RCC Annual Meeting, 5 July 2011, Sarajevo, BiH. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The Secretariat of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) presented today the first results of implementation of the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 to the diplomatic community in Sarajevo. The briefing follows last week’s RCC Annual Meeting and related South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) events in Budva, Montenegro.

RCC Secretary General recalled a series of praises the organization received by RCC members as well as SEECP heads of state or government and ministers of foreign affairs last week in Budva, who endorsed his Annual Report on regional cooperation in South East Europe 2010-2011.

“The regional cooperation in South East Europe is on an evident rise, with the RCC being recognized as a leading platform guiding the cooperation”, said Biscevic.

“The time is now ripe to translate positive trends into irreversible processes and include a wide range of stakeholders – governments, businesses, parliamentarians, civil society, think tanks, etc. – into design and implementation of concrete regional projects of a large-scale, transnational nature, especially in the field of transport infrastructure.”

The RCC Secretary General commended a successful cooperation with the outgoing SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office of Montenegro and announced tomorrow’s visit to the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo of the SEECP Chair, Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Finally, he congratulated Croatia on finalizing negotiations for the European Union membership and expressed satisfaction that such a development would serve as an impetus to other countries of the region to further reforms and speed up their European integration.

Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minic, presented concrete achievements of the RCC thus far, in the areas of economic and social development, energy, infrastructure, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital and media development. She gave an overview of RCC efforts in streamlining regional initiatives and task forces to make regional activities more focused and efficient.

The briefing gathered around 20 representatives of the diplomatic community in Sarajevo.

The Annual Report of the RCC Secretary General on regional cooperation in South East Europe 2010-2011, outlining the achievements more in detail, is available HERE.


21.06.2011

RCC Secretary General takes part in EU-Western Balkans ministerial meeting

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council. (Photo/Europe by Satellite)

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), took part in the ministerial meeting EU-Western Balkans: Western Balkans Forum, held in Luxembourg yesterday.

Ahead of the next week’s RCC Annual Meeting, as well as ministerial and summit meetings of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), Secretary General Biscevic gave an overview of the state of cooperation in the region.

He stressed the importance of dialogue, reconciliation and rapprochement for the overall advancement of South East Europe.

“The rapprochement process should be as inclusive as possible, involving wide social groups, such as parliamentarians, civil society and the media, in order for it to be irreversible. The upcoming conclusion of accession talks with Croatia should serve as an impetus for the region to continue with necessary reforms and take up a historical responsibility to solve the remaining open issues in South East Europe, given the changes on the international agenda.”

The Secretary General underlined that the RCC continues with a robust implementation of its Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, with tangible progress already visible in justice and home affairs, security and economic cooperation, building human capital, etc.

“We need to strengthen awareness among the countries of the region of a need to cooperate more closely on large regional projects, such as railways reconstruction and similar trans-national projects”, concluded Biscevic.

The meeting was a part of continuous efforts of the EU to keep the enlargement countries of the Western Balkans closely in focus as they strive to meet requirements of the accession process. That point was underlined by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice-President, Catharine Ashton, who chaired the meeting, as European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, gave an overview of the current track record of each aspiring country. The meeting was attended by a number of EU ministers of foreign affairs, ministers from the region, European External Action Service Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia, Miroslav Lajčák, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentine Inzko, and representatives of various international organizations.


15.06.2011

RCC role in Parliamentary Dimension of South-East European Cooperation Process important, Speakers of Parliament say

The role of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) in the context of the Parliamentary Dimension of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) was recognized as important by the participants of the 9th Conference of the SEECP Speakers of Parliament, which took place in Becici, Montenegro, on 13-15 June 2011.

In her address to the event, Deputy RCC Secretary General Jelica Minic highlighted the organization’s efforts to strengthen the parliamentary dimension of regional cooperation and outlined the main results achieved so far in the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.

“The RCC has actively contributed to the inclusion of the parliamentary cooperation into the framework of the Multi-Beneficiary Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) Strategy 2011-2013”, said Minic. “This will allow the region to translate the political goodwill into concrete cooperation among the lawmakers.”

The conference reiterated commitment to deepening and strengthening inter-parliamentary relations among the SEECP Participating States and adopted the Final Declaration to this effect.

The event was organized by the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office of the SEECP. It was attended by Speakers, Deputy Speakers, Members of Parliaments and Secretary Generals of the Parliaments of the SEECP Participating States. The special invitees included the Head of the Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in South East Europe, Mariana Vitanova, and a representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The text of the Final Declaration is available HERE.


25.05.2011

RCC Secretary General and European Commission Director discuss transport priorities in South East Europe

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), met today with Marjeta Jager, Director for General Policy at the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) of the European Commission, to discuss transport sector priorities in South East Europe.

“It is necessary to translate current political spirit of cooperation in South East Europe into concrete projects, in particular in transport sector”, said Biscevic. “Large-scale infrastructure development is needed for a sustainable economic growth, in particular in railway sector, to link the region with European corridors and the fast growing economies.

Biscevic underlined that the region should pull together resources to concentrate on large scale trans-national projects.

Reiterating the importance the Commission attaches to the region, Jager welcomed RCC role in garnering political support and providing know-how in donor coordination in transport area, highlighting a need for a comprehensive and inclusive approach.

She announced her participation in the presentation of a World Bank study on railroad infrastructure in South East Europe, in Brussels on 14 June 2011, to be co-chaired by the World Bank and the Commission’s DG MOVE.

The two officials discussed potential for further cooperation in the fields of common interest in Western Balkans and South East Europe, in view of RCC Secretariat’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 and EU priorities, including the necessity to conclude talks on the Transport Community Treaty. 


12.05.2011

RCC Board reviews progress in implementation of organization's 2011-2013 strategy

Meeting of the RCC Board held in Sarajevo, BiH, on 12 May 2011. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The second meeting of the Board of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) in 2011, held in Sarajevo today, reviewed work of the RCC Secretariat over the past two months and discussed its future activities.

RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic presented a report on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat for the period 9 March-9 May 2011.

“Over this period, South East Europe was on a positive move in terms of European Union accession and improved political climate”, said Secretary General Biscevic. “Remaining challenges, however, still require additional efforts on part of the RCC to deliver and be able to fully implement its three-year strategy.”

Biscevic called upon the RCC members from South East Europe to work together to reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation, rapprochement and reconciliation in the region.

The Board heard an overview of the current status of implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, prepared by the organisation’s senior experts.

The Annual Report of the RCC Secretary General on regional cooperation in South East Europe 2010-2011 was presented and accepted by the Board members. 

The participants were also updated on coordination activities between the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Troika (Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia) and the RCC Secretariat, in view of preparations for the RCC Annual Meeting and SEECP Summit at the end of June.

The region’s national coordinators for EU’s Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) programme took part in the meeting, in an RCC effort to facilitate greater coordination in design and implementation of national and regional IPA projects.

The organization’s Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat.

The RCC Secretary General’s quarterly Report on the Activities of the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat is available HERE.


22.03.2011

Sarajevo meeting discusses security sector reform in Western Balkans

Representatives of seven regional civil society organizations (CSOs) – from Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Tirana and Zagreb – analyzed in Sarajevo today security sector reforms (SSR) in the Western Balkans, at a roundtable co-organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat.

The event “Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans: context and evolution from 1991 to 2010” focused on developing the SSR in the Western Balkans, discussed the main drivers and challenges in the process, and supported an increased involvement of civil society in regional activities, which is in line with the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.

Other co-organizers of the meeting, that gathered leading experts dealing with SSR in the region, included the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (PA BiH), the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, and the Centre for Security Studies of BiH, with financial support from the Kingdom of Norway.

Opening remarks were delivered by Secretary General of the BiH Centre for Security Studies, Denis Hadžović; Norwegian Ambassador to BiH, Jan Braathu; Senior RCC Secretariat’s Expert on Justice and Home Affairs, Virgil Ivan Cucu; Assistant DCAF Director, Darko Stančić; Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Miroslav Hadzic; and Expert-Advisor from the Joint Committee for Defense and Security of PA BiH, Željko Grubešić.

“The ultimate goal of security and justice sector reform is achieving tangible impact on the daily lives of the people”, said RCC’s Virgil Ivan Cucu. “This can be done by increasing security of people and property, and the citizens’ access the public service, as well as by bringing sustained improvements to the rule of law as a key prerequisite for sustainable economic development, good governance, and respect for fundamental rights.”

Event participants exchanged experiences on the SSR in Western Balkans and involvement of civil society in the process. They used the opportunity to enhance networking of specialized CSOs working within justice and security sector.


15.03.2011

South East European defense ministers stress RCC’s importance in regional cooperation

In a Joint Statement adopted in Budva today, Ministers of Defense of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) stressed the importance of defense and security cooperation in fostering general stability and development in the region.

The Ministers underlined that in a rapidly changing security environment, where new challenges arise – from current economic crisis to natural disaster or new sources of threats – countries of the region need to work on furthering the concept of cooperative security.

The ministerial Joint Statement reflected the importance of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) in enhancing regional cooperation and supporting stability, democracy and development in South East Europe.

The ministers encouraged further cooperation between the RCC and the Center for Security Cooperation (RACVIAC), the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial (SEEDM) and the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative (DPPI) in the area of security cooperation.

“Security dimension of a current state of play in our part of Europe needs to be carefully considered, as the disparity between the European and Euro-Atlantic advancement of our region and the landscape of still unfinished peace clearly represents a security challenge”, said RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, in his address to the meeting.

He pointed to a necessity to overcome and resolve remaining open issues in the region in order to avoid a slow-down of European and Euro-Atlantic integrations and creation of an unwanted strategic vacuum in this part of Europe, particularly serious in light of current developments on the southern rim of the Mediterranean. 

“This makes security cooperation in the region so strategically important. On its end, the RCC Secretariat’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 sets concrete goals and activities developed in close coordination with NATO and the EU, and endorsed by the SEECP Summit in Istanbul last year, as an effective mean to streamline and seek synergy in defense cooperation.”

The ministerial meeting was dedicated to identifying opportunities for regional cooperation in the field of security. Participants shared best practices on defense issues, and exchanged views on possible new areas of future cooperation, including joint defense industry projects, education, joint exercises, etc.

The event gathered ministers of defense from the SEECP participating States, as well as representatives of relevant organizations active in defense cooperation in the region, including NATO.

Address by RCC Secretary General Biscevic is available HERE.


08.03.2011

Regional Cooperation Council Board holds its first meeting in 2011 in Sarajevo today

The RCC Board meets quarterly and provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The Board of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) met in Sarajevo today to review the activities of the organization over the past three months and provide guidance for the period ahead.

“Balanced regional development and all-inclusiveness is a prerequisite for stability and prosperity of South East Europe”, said RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic, while presenting a report on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat since December 2010 to the 28-member supervisory body.

“It is therefore an imperative to preserve a steady pace of regional cooperation in economy, infrastructure, justice and home affairs, security and building of human capital, in a spirit of tolerance, all-inclusiveness, dialogue and mutual appreciation.”

The report reflects progress in implementing the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 endorsed by the RCC Annual Meeting and the Heads of State and Government of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) participating States in June 2010.

At the meeting, Secretary General Biscevic also shared information on the work planned for the next three months and on the coordination of activities between the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Troika (Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia) and the RCC Secretariat.

The participants adopted the budget of the RCC Secretariat for 2011. They further on decided to invite the region’s national coordinators for EU’s Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) programme to the next Board meeting, scheduled for 12 May 2011.

The RCC Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat.


26.01.2011

RCC Secretariat and Association of Balkan Chambers sign cooperation agreement today

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević (left), and the President of the Foreign Trade Chamber of BiH, Veselin Poljašević, on behalf of the Association of Balkan Chambers, signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in economic and investment development in Sarajevo, BiH, on 26 January 2011. (Photo RCC/Dado Ruvic)

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biščević, and the President of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Veselin Poljašević, on behalf of the Association of Balkan Chambers (ABC), signed today at the RCC premises in Sarajevo a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in economic and investment development.

The memorandum will strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in the fields of industry, infrastructure, energy, education, entrepreneurship, promotion of trade, investment and know-how in the region, and identification and planning of related trans-national projects.

In line with the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, this framework of cooperation between the RCC Secretariat and the ABC is part of a broad effort to set up working arrangements with relevant organizations that will contribute to implementing an RCC regional priority of transferring the South East European Investment Committee from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to regional ownership. 

The Association of Balkan Chambers comprises chambers of commerce from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.


16.12.2010

RCC Secretary General and EU Commissioner for Regional Policy discuss cooperation

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, met in Brussels yesterday with EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, and exchanged views on RCC activities related to implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.  

The two officials also discussed possible cooperation between the RCC and the European Commission regarding implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region and related complementary aspects with the RCC strategy. They stressed the political importance of involvement of respective countries of the region in the implementation of the EU’s Danube strategy, as a way of enhancing EU integration.

The Secretary General informed the Commissioner of the RCC activities, with particular focus on economic and social development, infrastructure, energy, environment, rule of law and building human capital. The Commissioner elaborated the main aspects of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region and the process of its adoption.

Secretary General Biscevic invited Commissioner Hahn to visit the region and the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo.

The RCC Secretary General also delivered a lecture at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations on the Regional Cooperation Council and the EU, at Castle of Val Duchesse, Brussels.


15.12.2010

RCC-supported conference of National Councils of European Movement in South East Europe held in Podgorica

A conference of National Councils of the European Movement in South East Europe, which gathered representatives of ten countries from the region, was held in Podgorica today. The event was co-organized by the European Movement of Montenegro and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, under the auspices of the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process and with support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

The meeting was a continuation of an initiative of the RCC Secretariat and National Councils of European Movement from South East Europe, launched in May 2010, at the initial conference in Sarajevo.

Speaking at the event, Deputy RCC Secretary General Jelica Minic reiterated the organization’s support to this type of civil society engagement aimed at boosting regional cooperation and supporting European integration.

“The RCC is very satisfied that its incentive to develop cooperation in the framework of National Councils of the European Movement in South East Europe has gained momentum and promises to become an important self-sustainable initiative.”

The conference participants agreed to concretize and formalize cooperation in the future, and develop concrete models and projects with this purpose among European Movements of the region and their national councils, European Movement International and national councils from other European countries, as well as other international, regional and local stakeholders.


13.12.2010

RCC Secretary General, EU Enlargement Director General agree 2010 successful for regional cooperation

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, met in Brussels today with the European Commission's Director General for Enlargement, Michael Leigh, to discuss preparations for implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, and evaluate the progress made thus far.

The two officials agreed that 2010 has been a successful year for regional cooperation, with the RCC strategy being adopted and the progress achieved in improving the political climate in the region.

Secretary General Biscevic thanked Director General Leigh for a continued support to the RCC and highlighted a need to maintain the current spirit of rapprochement, moderation and pragmatism in the region as an environment conducive to further strengthening regional cooperation and stability.

He informed the Commission's Director General of the progress made in the areas of rule or law, fight against corruption, and justice and home affairs in general. He emphasized that the drafting of the regional strategy to fight organized crime and corruption is nearing completion. He informed of the second meeting of the region's chiefs of military intelligence held two months ago in Belgrade, the creation of South East European association of public broadcasters, cooperation among universities, and the conference on the Implementation of Single European Sky in South East Europe (ISIS Programme) in Budva in September.

Secretary General Biscevic also discussed remaining challenges in regional cooperation and the need for pragmatic solutions to inclusiveness to move forward with issues such as CEFTA and Transport Community Treaty, as well as shared views and observations on how to contribute to the facilitation of positive developments in this respect.

Director General Leigh showed particular interest in implementation of the RCC strategy and expressed hope that a formula could be developed that would work for regional cooperation and that the enlargement countries will continue with necessary reforms to maintain the enlargement momentum, in line with the recent European Commission’s enlargement strategy and progress reports.

He positively assessed the RCC Secretariat’s work so far, reiterated expectation of concrete results and supported the adaptations in the Secretariat’s structure together with the budget reductions envisaged in 2011. Director General Leigh expressed expectation that the RCC would successfully balance project design activities with the coordinating role and overall insight in the region, adding the regional cooperation value.

The two officials agreed on further cooperation between the European Commission and the RCC in implementing related aspects of Europe 2020 in Western Balkans.


10.12.2010

RCC Secretary General meets EU Commissioner for Enlargement

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, met in Brussels yesterday with the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fuele, to discuss regional cooperation in South East Europe.

The two officials welcomed the progress made in improving the political climate in the region and expressed expectations that the enlargement countries from Western Balkans would continue with reforms and fulfilment of the necessary requirements in order to keep the enlargement momentum.

Secretary General Biscevic thanked Commissioner Fuele for a continued support to the RCC and highlighted a need to maintain the current spirit of rapprochement, moderation and pragmatism in the region as a conducive environment for further strengthening of regional cooperation and stability. He informed the Commissioner of the initiative to have a meeting between the incoming Hungarian EU Presidency, the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) and the RCC at the beginning of the next year. He also shared views and observations on how to contribute to the facilitation of positive development related to some of the remaining issues in the region.

The two officials discussed specific support by the European Commission to the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, on issues such as regional strategies on justice and home affairs, and on research and development, creation of South East European association of public broadcasters, follow up to a meeting of region’s intelligence chiefs held two months ago in Belgrade, as well as cooperation among universities, etc.

Commissioner Fuele showed particular interest in the implementation of the RCC Strategy and expressed hope that the enlargement countries will continue with necessary reforms to maintain the enlargement momentum, in line with the recent Commission’s enlargement strategy and progress reports. He positively assessed the RCC Secretariat’s work so far as well as the adaptations in the Secretariat’s structure together with the budget reductions envisaged in 2011.

Secretary General Biscevic and Commissioner Fuele also agreed on further cooperation between the European Commission and the RCC in implementing related aspects of Europe 2020 in Western Balkans.

While in Brussels, Secretary General Biscevic also took part in the annual Friends of Europe summit ‘Beating the Balkans Blues’, where he spoke about stepping up the investment and competitiveness drive in the region.


02.12.2010

Regional Cooperation Council Board meets in Sarajevo today

Meeting of the RCC Board held on 2 December 2010, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The 28-member Board of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) heard in Sarajevo today a report by RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat since September 2010 and the information on the work planned for the next three months.

The report reflects progress in implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 endorsed by the RCC Annual Meeting and the Heads of State and Government of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) participating States in June 2010.

Presenting the report, Secretary General Biscevic stressed that that current political and social environment in South East Europe, complimented by the new EU enlargement momentum, is characterized by an evident improvement of relations and the enhancement of spirit of reconciliation and rapprochement.

“The state of regional cooperation in South East Europe today is better than ever before in recent history”, said Biscevic. “The RCC will work to ensure that this trend is sustained by pooling the countries together around concrete development projects.”

The RCC Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat.

The next meeting of the RCC Board is planned for 8 March 2011.


29.11.2010

RCC Secretary General meets officials of upcoming Hungarian EU Presidency

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, held a series of meetings in Budapest today with officials of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the context of Hungary’s takeover of the Presidency of the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2011.

The RCC Secretary General met with Parliamentary State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth, Deputy State Secretaries Peter Szataray and Balint Odor, RCC National Coordinator and Head of Department for the Western Balkans Janos Huszar, as well as Heads of Departments for EU Enlargement and EU Foreign Policy of the upcoming Hungarian EU Presidency.

The meetings discussed the situation in South East Europe and priorities of the Hungarian Presidency, especially in relation to further EU enlargement.

The Hungarian officials highlighted the importance of the RCC, pledging a continued support to the organization. They said a priority of the Hungarian EU Presidency is to have each enlargement country in South East Europe make a step forward towards EU integration; with a hope Croatia would conclude its accession negotiations during the Presidency tenure.

Secretary General Biscevic informed his Hungarian counterparts about regional priorities in the context of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.

He stressed the importance of maintaining the EU enlargement momentum in South East Europe, as well as advancing regional recovery and development, especially in the fields of transport and energy infrastructure, through concrete transnational projects.

During the visit to Budapest, Secretary General Biscevic also delivered a presentation at the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs on EU Enlargement and Remaining Challenges in South East Europe, and held a lecture at Robert Schuman Institute’s Alumni Conference.


15.11.2010

RCC Secretary General meets Slovenian Foreign Minister over cooperation in South East Europe

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, met today with Slovenian Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar and Ambassador Mitja Strukelj, National Coordinator for the Western Balkans, to discuss political situation and regional cooperation in South East Europe.

Secretary General Biscevic congratulated Minister Zbogar on Slovenia joining, as of June this year, the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), which will give an additional impulse to cooperation and EU integration in the region.

The RCC Secretary General also informed the Minister and the Ambassador of the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, with a special emphasis on the development of large-scale regional projects in infrastructure, transport and energy, which are instrumental in stimulating economic and social advancement in the region.

Minister Zbogar supported the work of the RCC and its Secretariat, and the principles of regional ownership and all-inclusiveness. He announced even more active role of Slovenia in regional cooperation in South East Europe.

All interlocutors positively assessed the findings of the European Commission’s enlargement strategy paper and progress reports issued last week, as a further step in stimulating necessary reforms by EU aspirants and an enhancement of enlargement momentum in the region.

The meetings with the Slovenian officials were part of a series of the RCC Secretary General’s political consultations with leaders in South East Europe on regional priorities in the context of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.


06.10.2010

RCC Secretary General discusses regional cooperation with Bulgarian officials

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, held consultations in Sofia today with Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Energy and Transport, Milen Ljutzkanov, Mario Kosev and Ivaylo Moskovski, respectively, as well as Ambassador at Large for Energy Security and Climate Change, Peter Poptchev.

Secretary General Biscevic informed his Bulgarian counterparts of the first steps in implementing the newly adopted RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, and of the RCC efforts in connecting South East European priorities with potential funds for projects of regional importance.

He added that the creation of a regional energy master plan, harmonized with EU policies, would benefit national economies and the citizens, also through fostering their countries’ European integration.

The Bulgarian officials highlighted the importance of the RCC in the region and expressed particular interest in strengthening transport and energy infrastructure in South East Europe, especially when it comes to gas interconnections between Bulgaria and neighbouring countries, with the aim to link these transportation routes with the EU market. 

During all the meetings, it was agreed that concrete project cooperation among the countries of the region was essential for overall economic and social advancement of South East Europe. A coordinating role of the RCC in this respect was also discussed.

The meetings with the Bulgarian officials were part of an ongoing series of the RCC Secretary General’s political consultations with leaders in South East Europe on regional priorities in the context of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.


16.09.2010

Regional Cooperation Council’s Task Force on Culture and Society established today

Meeting of the RCC Board, Sarajevo, BiH, 16 September 2010. The RCC Board meets quarterly and provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

A Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Task Force on Culture and Society has been established today, by the decision of the Organization’s 28-member Board, which met in Sarajevo.

The RCC Task Force, with a Secretariat based in Cetinje, Montenegro, will take over the coordination of activities envisaged by the second phase of Ljubljana Process – a project of rehabilitation of cultural sites throughout South East Europe, worth 1,600,000.00 Euro. The implementation of the project will start in January 2011. The Task Force will be in charge of management and fund-raising activities and work with national task forces which will be created in each country of the region.

The regular quarterly meeting of the RCC Board also heard a report by the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat since May 2010 as well as the announcement for planned events. The report is available HERE.

The RCC Board meets quarterly and is chaired by the RCC Secretary General. The Board provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat.


10.09.2010

The first meeting of South East European political directors under Montenegrin leadership held in Podgorica today

The first meeting of political directors of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) under the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office, held in Podgorica today, discussed the priorities of the Chairmanship and the situation in the region.

The event was chaired by Deputy Montenegrin Foreign Minister Nebojsa Kaludjerovic, who presented the programme and the calendar of activities of his country’s SEECP Chairmanship.

The political directors welcomed the progress made by the countries of South East Europe in European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and stressed the significance of yesterday’s UN General Assembly’s resolution on Kosovo for the continuation of a dialogue in the region.

“The positive political climate in the region must translate into concrete regional cooperation projects to the benefit of all the people in South East Europe and the region’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration”, said RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic, while taking part in the event.

The Montenegrin SEECP priorities focus on regional economic recovery and development efforts. The participants particularly highlighted the importance of a stronger cooperation in building regional energy and transport infrastructure.


29.07.2010

Representatives of RCC Secretariat and Montenegrin SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office meet in Sarajevo

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic (left), welcomes Montenegrin Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nebojsa Kaludjerovic, at the RCC premises in Sarajevo, 29 July 2010. (Photo RCC/ Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, held today in Sarajevo consultations with Montenegrin Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nebojsa Kaludjerovic, representing the rotating Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) taken over by Montenegro at the SEECP Summit in Istanbul in June 2010. 

The meeting focused on preparation of the Montenegrin SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office Work Programme with the aim of its full compliance and alignment with the Strategy and Work Programme of the Regional Cooperation Council for 2011 – 2013.

In this context, interlocutors stressed the importance of close cooperation in achieving full synergy between SEECP as the political umbrella and RCC as its operational arm.

The two officials also discussed future steps in the process of streamlining regional initiatives and task forces in South East Europe.


14.07.2010

RCC Secretary General presents the organization’s new strategy at COWEB Capitals meeting

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic presented today to the COWEB Capitals meeting in Brussels the organization’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-13, adopted last month, and received support to the organization’s work by the participants.

Secretary General Biscevic highlighted that, in the implementation of the RCC mandate and the new three-year Strategy, it is necessary to take maximum advantage of recent positive trends in regional cooperation in South East Europe.

“These trends, and the current rapprochement in bilateral relations among the countries, should be translated into a genuine readiness for regional cooperation, as well as concrete recovery and development projects. In this respect, the RCC Strategy is a valuable tool complementing the countries’ efforts to design and implement regional projects in the areas of infrastructure, energy, transport, etc.”

The RCC Secretary General also outlined the results of the RCC Annual Meeting and the Summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), held in Istanbul, on 22-23 June 2010.

He informed the COWEB Capitals of the preparations for the Annual Programme of the incumbent Montenegrin SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office that the RCC has been actively involved in.

During his stay in Brussels, Secretary General Biscevic also met with the Director General for Enlargement at the European Commission, Michael Leigh, to discuss future cooperation between the RCC and the Commission, in light of the new Strategy.


07.07.2010

RCC hosts first meeting for preparing South East European strategy on justice and home affairs

The first meeting of the South East European Steering Group for Regional Strategy on Justice and Home Affairs 2011-2013, ended in Sarajevo today at the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, which is coordinating the preparation of the document.

Participants of this two-day event worked on the first draft of the strategy and action plan, with a goal to identify challenges in each of the countries and integrate them into a regional framework.

The experts identified the following main threats in South East Europe: trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of children; illegal migration and smuggling of migrants; trafficking and smuggling of goods, hazardous materials and arms; money laundering; drugs trafficking; terrorism and its links to organized crime; and corruption.

Once finalized, the regional strategy on justice and home affairs will include a plan for a system of monitoring and evaluating regional cooperation, with benchmarks and indicators. It will contain a chart of regional actions, initiatives, institutions, organizations and programmes, map the existing technical assistance activities as well as the lessons learned, gaps and overlaps.

The envisaged result is a sustainable, coherent, transparent and coordinated regional strategy on justice and home affairs in South East Europe for the next three years, which will provide guidance for monitoring progress, circulating and assessing information, facilitating cooperation among relevant actors and donors, and raising visibility of regional efforts.

The first draft of the document is expected to be produced in September 2010, with the strategy being endorsed by the South East European ministers of justice and home affairs in early 2011.

The meeting participants included representatives of national judicial institutions from South East Europe, SEE regional organizations, EU institutions and agencies, representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, national and international experts on justice and home affairs, NGOs and professional associations.


30.06.2010

RCC Secretary General discusses energy and transport projects with Albanian officials

Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council. (Photo RCC/Dinka Živalj)

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Hido Biscevic met in Tirana today with top Albanian officials to discuss concrete regional projects, primarily in the energy and transport sectors.

The readiness of the Albanian government and relevant ministries to engage in the design and implementation of such projects was stressed at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ilir Meta, also in view of the last week’s discussions by the heads of state and government of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Istanbul.

The two officials also talked about political situation in the region, pointing to a need for regional cooperation to remain a key drive of EU integration for the countries of South East Europe. They welcomed recent series of positive meetings and decisions among the region’s leaders promoting cooperation and EU integration as well as rapprochement in bilateral relations among the countries of the region.

In this context, Deputy Prime Minister Meta mentioned a recently held quadrilateral meeting of presidents of Albania, Montenegro, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo.

He positively evaluated the work of the RCC Secretariat, expressing his firm belief that the RCC would continue to operate on the principle of all-inclusiveness.

The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Sokol Olldashi, underlined the significance for Albania of its cooperation with neighbours in the areas of transport and infrastructure, such as through cleaning the bed of the Buna River and improving road connectivity with Montenegro.

Secretary General Biscevic suggested that these projects be discussed at the next meeting of the SEECP ministers of transport, to be held under the Montenegrin Chairmanship-in-Office. He expressed the readiness of the RCC to raise, on its end, the interest for such projects at future meetings of SEECP ministers of economy, energy and transport, in line with its mandate.

The meeting with Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade and Energy, Leonard Beqiri, focused on Albania’s views on priority regional projects, particularly the construction of a modern energy transport system between Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The RCC Secretary General’s visit was part of a consultation series with the South East European leaders in the context of preparation and implementation of a recently adopted RCC strategy for 2011-2013.


29.06.2010

RCC Secretary General discusses regional cooperation in Pristina

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic visited Pristina today to discuss development opportunities in the context of regional cooperation in South East Europe.

Secretary General Biscevic met the Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Lamberto Zannier; Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hajredin Kuci; Special Representative of the European Union (EUSR) in Kosovo, Peter Feith; and Vice President of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, Safet Gerxhaliu.

The talks with Ambassador Zannier focused on the current situation in Kosovo, while the conversation with Deputy Prime Minister Kuci centred around the importance of participation of relevant Kosovo authorities, agencies, business community, etc., in economic and developmental cooperation in South East Europe.

Deputy Prime Minister Kuci showed interest in the newly adopted RCC Strategy and Work Programme for 2011-2013 and expressed belief that Kosovo would find an appropriate place in its implementation, especially when it comes to programmes and projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure, transport, agriculture, etc.

The EUSR Feith shared his views with Secretary General Biscevic on the political developments in Kosovo, in particular in relation to EU integration, and Vice President Gerxhaliu expressed the interest of the Chamber of Commerce to strengthen its involvement in regional cooperation.

The RCC Secretary General’s visit was part of a series of consultations with leaders from South East Europe on the preparation and subsequent implementation of the organization’s Strategy for 2011-2013.


25.06.2010

Albanian parliament hosts workshop on Energy Community, with Regional Cooperation Council support

Regional Cooperation Council promotes sustainable energy development in South East Europe. (Photo: www.sxc.hu)

Implementation of the Energy Community (EnC) Treaty was the main topic of a workshop on Energy Community and Regional Sustainability, which took place in Tirana today. The event was co-organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the Albanian national assembly, with support of the EnC Secretariat.

Albanian parliamentarians and parliamentary expert staff from the committees on industry, European integration, transport and communications participated in the seminar. The key discussion topics included the EnC Treaty as a legal framework and its implementation in Albania, market developments in the EnC, with a focus on Albania and its gas law, as well as the security and sustainability of energy supply, also in the context of climate change.

The workshop was opened by Jemin Gjana, Chairman of the Committee on Productive Activities, Trade and Environment of Albanian Parliament, Slavtcho Neykov, Director of the EnC Secretariat, and Miroslav Kukobat, Senior Expert on Infrastructure and Energy at the RCC Secretariat. 

The workshop was the third one, after Belgrade and Sarajevo, in a series of RCC events built upon the conclusions of the regional workshop “Parliaments – Support to Harmonized Energy Reforms in South East Europe”, held in Sarajevo in December 2008. The 2008 workshop initiated the process of facilitating the lawmaking and increasing the ability of parliaments to oversee their governments in the energy reform process.


12.06.2010

RCC Secretary General and EU Enlargement Commissioner discuss EU policy towards South East Europe

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, and EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fuele, agreed at their meeting in Brussels yesterday that the last week’s high level EU-Western Balkans meeting and recent activities of political leaders from South East Europe affirmed the EU perspective of all the countries of the region and opened a new chapter in the political relations, based on a full readiness to dialogue, rapprochement and mutual respect.

Secretary General Biscevic highlighted the significance of a persistent enlargement policy for a durable stability and cooperation in South East Europe.

“It is of a paramount importance to translate recent mutually reassuring commitments, undertaken both by the EU and by the countries in the region, into a set of coherent and elaborated policies that will sustain the present positive trends and turn them into a historically irreversible process”, said Biscevic. 

Recalling the Sarajevo meeting discussions, the two officials confirmed the need for the elaboration of a regional recovery and development strategy in the priority areas of RCC activities, such as economic and social development, infrastructure and energy.

Biscevic called for an even tighter cooperation between the European Commission and the RCC, “since regional cooperation is recognized as a focal element of EU enlargement and the RCC is ready to continue providing a platform for the implementation of initiatives and projects relevant for the EU policy towards the region”.

Secretary General Biscevic informed Commissioner Fuele of the new three-year RCC strategy for 2011-2013, expected to be adopted this month, and thanked him for the Commission’s active participation in its preparation.


07.06.2010

RCC Secretary General takes part in the 8th conference of SEECP speakers of parliament

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic (right), and RCC Expert on Parliamentary Cooperation, Mimika Loshi, at the 8th conference of SEECP speakers of parliament in Istanbul, Turkey, 7 June 2010. (Photo by Turkish SEECP CiO)

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, participated today in the 8th meeting of speakers of parliament of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) participating states, held in Antalya. The event was organized by the Republic of Turkey, which holds the rotating SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office.

“At this crucial point in time regional cooperation deserves our particular attention, because it is becoming increasingly evident that the synergy between renewed enlargement commitment on the part of the European Union and the new spirit of rapprochement and dialogue in the region needs to be supported and sustained by all policy makers, in particular by the parliaments”, said Biscevic.

He underlined that it was time for the regional cooperation in this sphere to gain momentum, and for the parliaments to act in order to ensure that positive trends in the region are translated into an irreversible process.

“I am convinced that by working together we can achieve the results the citizens of the region count on their parliaments to fulfil – to successfully adopt and implement reforms so as to improve the quality of the citizens’ life and to see the entire South East Europe become part of the European family in a near future.”

The participants adopted a joint declaration that calls upon all the parliamentarians of the SEECP participating States to increase public awareness of European integration processes. It places emphasis on the importance of dialogue, tolerance, peaceful co-existence as well as preservation of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious fabrics of societies in line with the European standards.

The declaration notes that within a relatively short period of time, the Regional Cooperation Council, as an operational arm of the SEECP, has demonstrated its capacity to transform the vision of regional cooperation into concrete projects.

The meeting discussed strengthening of institutional framework of parliamentary cooperation in South East Europe, cooperation with parliamentary organizations and regional/international institutions as well as combating the negative effects of the world economic crisis on the SEECP participating states – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey.

The SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office rotates annually. Following the 23 June 2010 summit of the heads of state or government in Istanbul, Montenegro will take over the Chairmanship.

Declaration adopted at the meeting is available HERE.


18.05.2010

RCC Board finalizes discussions on the organization’s three-year strategy

Meeting of the RCC Board, Sarajevo, BiH, 18 May 2010. The RCC Board meets quarterly and provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

Members of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board supported in Sarajevo today the concept of the 2011-2013 strategy and work programme of the organization, and agreed to finalize it in time for the approval by the RCC Annual Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on 22 June.

The new strategy will define RCC activities over the next three years, based on the region’s needs, and focusing on projects with added regional value, in the priority areas of the RCC work: economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital and parliamentary cooperation in South East Europe.

The strategy has been prepared in close cooperation with the European Commission, with substantial input from other RCC members, particularly those from South East Europe.

The RCC Board was also presented with the quarterly report of Secretary General Hido Biscevic on the Secretariat’s activities in the period February-May 2010, available HERE.

The RCC Board meets quarterly and provides the RCC with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat. 


29.04.2010

Biscevic, Djelic agree on the importance of regional projects as a developement stimulus

RCC Secretary General (right), Hido Biscevic, with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Bozidar Djelic. (Photo RCC/Nenad Bozovic)

“The main goal of the series of visits to the RCC members from South East Europe, I have undertook, is pinpointing the national projects that could be implemented on a regional level, thus creating a climate for invigorated economic development of the region as a whole,” said Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, at the meeting with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Bozidar Djelic, in Belgrade today.

The two officials agreed on the possibility for RCC to play a central role in coordination and preparation of projects that might be pivotal for economic growth of South East Europe. They emphasized importance of the upcoming high level meeting between the EU and Western Balkans to be held on 2 June in Sarajevo, and organised by Spain, current holder of the rotating EU Presidency, indicating it as a great opportunity for promoting projects of regional importance.

Streamlining of task forces and initiatives and the overall cooperation of South East European countries in the process of European integration have been emphasized at a separate meeting between the RCC Secretary General and Borislav Stefanovic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. The State Secretary positively assessed the importance and modus of operations of the RCC against the difficult background in the region.


29.04.2010

Secretary General with PM Gruevski: Cooperation on joint projects a way to accelerated development

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic (second left), meets Prime Minister of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski (centre), in Skopje, 28 April 2010. (Photo / Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

As part of visits to the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) members from South East Europe (SEE), the Secretary General Hido Biscevic met yesterday in Skopje with the Prime Minister of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, and informed him on the finalization of the Strategy and Work Programme of the organization for the 2011-2013 period. 

Biscevic emphasized that, following the Western Balkans Investment Framework established last December in Brussels at the conference “Western Balkans: Overcoming the economic crisis – from regional cooperation to EU membership”, projects of importance for the region should be designed and developed, especially in the field of energy, transportation and other areas of infrastructure.

Prime Minister Gruevski expressed his support to the work of RCC in developing regional projects, and stressed organisation’s importance in the context of EU integration process of the South East European countries. He agreed with the proposal regarding designing joint regional projects which would stimulate accelerated economic development of each individual national economies and the region as a whole.   

The meeting was also attended by The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Peshevski; Minister for Foreign Affairs, Antionio Milososki; Minister of Economy, Fatmir Besimi; and Minister of Transport and Communication, Mile Janakieski.

In a separate meeting, the Minister of Economy, Fatmir Besimi, supported the energy projects and transport corridors and underscored the interest of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in connecting its transmission grids with the neighbouring countries, as well as his country’s readiness to consider the possibilities for cooperation in the fields of industrial clusters, agriculture and tourism.


27.04.2010

RCC national coordinators from South East Europe discuss new strategy of the organization

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) national coordinators from South East Europe met today to discuss the draft organization’s strategy for 2011-2013, with the aim of its finalization and subsequent approval by the RCC Board on 18 May 2010.

The participants of the meeting presented their detailed views, comments and suggestions on the draft strategy, as well as provided guidance to the RCC Secretariat in the process of the finalization of the document.

Following the envisaged approval by the RCC Board, the 2011-2013 strategy should be adopted by the Second Annual Meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council, which is to take place on 22 June 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic also informed the national coordinators of the latest activities of the RCC Secretariat.


09.04.2010

RCC Secretary General joins experts in addressing economic crisis in South East Europe

Hido Biščević, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), took part in a conference of ministers of economy and finance of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), which is being held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 8-10 April 2010.

The event, which also gathered governors of central banks in the region, was organized by the Turkish SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office in order to exchange experiences in dealing with effects of the global economic and financial crisis on South East Europe.

“Only a year ago, it seemed that our countries were rushing into a downward spiral threatening to wipe out a decade of significant growth”, said the RCC Secretary General in his address to the conference.

“Due to swift measures taken by the governments in the region, however, as well as a coordinated and timely assistance from international financial institutions, the negative trend was reversed and the region was put on a path of slow and gradual recovery.”

Secretary General Biščević reminded that although we may be in somewhat calmer waters now, the work of the governments and monetary institutions in the region, as well as RCC partners, is still far from over.

“Now, more than ever, South East Europe needs fresh and bold development initiatives and continued investment as this is also the best investment in durable stability.”

Conference participants appreciated an IMF presentation on the current state of and predictions for future financial developments in the region. They noted that structural reforms, public expenditure, unemployment, investment flow and credit activities, as well as general restoration of public confidence are the areas were full attention and caution will still be needed.

“One would hope that a lesson learned from this crisis is the awareness that our countries truly need to reach out and start working together in order to make the best use of vast human and natural resources, beyond political constraints”, concluded Biščević.


09.04.2010

Young Turkish diplomats visit RCC Secretariat

A group of young Turkish diplomats visits RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 9 April 2010. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

Within the framework of a training programme that envisages a tour throughout the Balkan countries, a group of seventy-two young Turkish diplomats were welcomed today in the premises of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat by Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minić.

Deputy Secretary General Minić presented the young diplomats with the organisation’s mission, priorities and activities, with a focus on the RCC priority areas of economic and social development, energy and infrastructure, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital, and parliamentary cooperation.

The guests from the Republic of Turkey chose to visit the RCC Secretariat as they estimated it would substantially contribute to the success of their training programme and offer them an opportunity to enhance understanding of the functioning of a regionally owned international organisation with a key role in South East Europe.


08.04.2010

RCC Secretary General holds talks with Turkish officials

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biščević, met today with Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, and Ambassador Şanıvar Olgun, Turkish RCC National Coordinator, to discuss future activities of the organization.

Secretary General Biščević informed his Turkish counterparts of the new strategy for the 2011-13 activities of the RCC Secretariat that is currently being finalized. He underlined that, following the initial two years of the organization’s set up and profiling, the focus will in the future shift on concrete project-oriented activities.

The Turkish officials gave full support to the work of the RCC, confirmed necessity to ensure full synergy between the RCC and the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) that Turkey is currently chairing, and a need to streamline regional initiatives to avoid duplication.

The RCC Secretary General also met with representatives of relevant expert departments in the Turkish Government, namely transport, energy and foreign trade, as well as the Turkish Chamber of Commerce to discuss concrete ideas to be included in the new RCC strategy. Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce also supported a closer and more direct involvement of private sector in the RCC work.


31.03.2010

RCC hosts preparatory meeting for the Conference of SEECP Speakers of Parliament

Participants of a preparatory meeting for the 8th Conference of Speakers of Parliament of the South-East European Cooperation Process, Sarajevo, BiH, 31 March 2010. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

A two-day preparatory meeting for the 8th Conference of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Speakers of Parliament ended in Sarajevo today with the participants agreeing on the outline programme and discussing the main aspects of the final declaration of the Conference.

The event, hosted by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and co-organized with the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) under the auspices of the Turkish SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office, gathered national coordinators of the SEECP parliaments.

The meeting was opened by the Head of the RCC Secretariat’s Building Human Capital Unit, Mladen Dragasevic, and GNAT Director of Foreign Relations and Protocol, Hasan Baytekin.

“Parliaments, as legislators, play a vital role in implementing relevant reforms and increasing efficiency and transparency of the governing structures in South East Europe (SEE)”, said Dragasevic. “The RCC sees promotion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation among parliaments in SEE, and establishment of closer ties between regional and EU parliaments, as a way forward in this area of regional cooperation.”

The 8th Conference of the SEECP Speakers of Parliament will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 3-5 May 2010.


30.03.2010

RCC Secretary General, officials of the Republic of Moldova discuss joint activities

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Hido Biscevic met today with high-level officials of the Republic of Moldova to outline the organization’s priorities in the next three years and the ways the Republic of Moldova can take best advantage of regional cooperation in South East Europe.

At a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Iurie Leanca, Secretary General Biscevic informed of the new 2011-13 strategy for the activities of the RCC Secretariat. He invited Minister Leanca to detect concrete ideas and projects with a regional dimension as a way to foster economic development of the country.

Minister Leanca credited the RCC for profiling itself as a leading regional organization, and stressed the compatibility of its activities with his government’s European integration aspirations.

Talking to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Valeriu Lazar, Secretary General Biscevic highlighted the elements of the new RCC strategy aimed at accelerating development of South East European countries and the region as a whole, through transnational projects.

Minister Lazar introduced the “Rethink Moldova” priorities of his country over the next four years, focusing primarily on responsible governance, economic recovery and human capital, with a view to developing a knowledge-based, competitive economy. He underlined his government’s orientation towards South East Europe and the experience of other countries with EU integration as important assets of cooperation within the RCC framework.

The RCC Secretary General also met with Gheorghe Duca, President of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Moldova, and discussed regional cooperation in the building human capital priority area of RCC activities, especially in terms of research, innovation and knowledge-based economy.

The meetings were a part of a series of consultations the RCC Secretary General has undertaken with the region’s leaders in the course of preparations of the 2011-13 strategy of the RCC Secretariat.


24.03.2010

Deputy RCC Secretary General welcomes publication of OECD Investment Reform Index 2010

Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Jelica Minic welcomed today the launch of the OECD Investment Reform Index 2010 report, the preparation of which was initiated at the RCC offices in Sarajevo in September 2008. The report was prepared based on inputs from governments, independent experts and the private sector in South East Europe, using over 100 indicators.

“The OECD Investment Reform Index 2010 report presents an excellent opportunity to take stock of the progress made in the previous period, but also focuses our attention to the areas that still require substantial engagement from regional policy makers”, said Minic.

The publication of the 2010 report comes at an opportune period for SEE, when the economic crisis is slowly subsiding to be replaced by the first signs of recovery. The OECD’s Investment Reform Index 2010 provides a qualitative assessment of policies and institutions that critically affect the environment for direct investment in 10 economies of South East Europe: Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNMIK/Kosovo, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

Some of the major recommendations of the report include better enforcement of intellectual property rights, improving education and training systems, expediting the adoption of EU technical regulations and standards, and cooperating with neighbours to develop better infrastructures.

The Investment Reform Index is being prepared under the auspices of the South East European Investment Committee, a high-level policy forum whose management and cooperation will be transferred from the OECD to the RCC over the next year.

A summary brochure of the Investment Reform Index 2010 report is available HERE. Full report can be ordered through THIS LINK.


09.03.2010

Future RCC role in focus of talks between the organization’s Secretary General and EC Director General for Enlargement

Future role of the RCC and its Strategic Work Programme for 2011-2013 was in focus of a meeting between RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic and Director General for Enlargement in the European Commission Michael Leigh, held in Brussels today.

Director General Leigh positively assessed the work of the RCC and its Secretariat, and supported the current draft of the RCC strategy for the next three years. He underlined the increasing role the RCC is assuming in South East Europe, in view also of the current economic crisis.

Moreover, he added that the European Commission was keen on seeing the RCC take over a more assertive and leading role in relation to the development of regional cooperation in South East Europe.

Secretary General Biscevic informed on the next steps in the finalization of the RCC Strategic Work Programme for 2011-2013, namely, its envisaged adoption by the RCC Board on 18 May and subsequent endorsement by the organization’s Annual Meeting and the Summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) the following month.

The two officials exchanged views on the political situation in the region, emphasizing the need to address open issues in a spirit of mutual understanding, compromise and restraint.

They touched upon two upcoming events related to the realization of the European perspective of the Western Balkans – a meeting of Western Balkan countries organized by Slovenia and Croatia later this month in Brdo kod Kranja, and the Ministerial EU-Western Balkans Forum to be organized under the auspices of the Spanish EU Presidency in June 2010.


26.02.2010

RCC Secretary General and Montenegrin Prime Minister discuss cooperation

The RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, and the Montenegrin Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic, discussed in Podgorica today political developments in South East Europe (SEE) and importance of the SEE countries’ steady progress towards EU integration.

Secretary General Biscevic informed Prime Minister Djukanovic of the new strategy for the 2011-13 activities of the RCC Secretariat that is currently being prepared, and the related intention of the organization to focus its future activities on regional development projects. The two officials highlighted the significance of regional cooperation in SEE on such projects, also in view of the global economic crisis.

The RCC Secretary General and the Montenegrin Prime Minister stressed the importance of European perspective for all the Western Balkan countries. In this context, they singled out two forthcoming events: the Slovenian-Croatian initiative for a high-level meeting of Western Balkan countries expected to take place this March, and the EU-Western Balkans Forum to be organized under the auspices of the Spanish EU Presidency in June 2010.

The meeting is a part of a series of consultations the RCC Secretary General has undertaken with the region’s leaders in the course of preparations of the 2011-13 strategy of the RCC Secretariat.


17.02.2010

RCC Secretary General holds talks with Chairman of BiH Council of Ministers

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic (left), at a meeting with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nikola Spiric, Sarajevo, BiH, 17 February 2010. (Photo/BiH Council of Ministers website)

The RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, met today with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nikola Spiric, and informed him of the new phase of RCC activities following the initial period of the organization’s profiling as the key driver of regional cooperation in South East Europe (SEE).

Secretary General Biscevic stressed the potential for the region’s development created through the adoption of the Western Balkans Investment Framework at the high-level conference on Western Balkans, organized in Brussels in December 2009 by the Swedish EU Presidency and the European Commission, in cooperation with the RCC. The conference results and the new strategy for the 2011-13 activities of the RCC Secretariat, which is currently being prepared, have motivated Secretary General Biscevic to initiate a new round of consultations with SEE leaders to identify future regional development projects.

In case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, road and railroad infrastructure, energy, agriculture and ICT have been spotted as the areas in which the country could take the best advantage of its geographical position as well as activate its human and economic potential through regional cooperation, at the same time keeping in mind a balanced development of all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Finally, the RCC Secretary General thanked Chairman Spiric for the continuous support of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its institutions to the work of the RCC during the first two years of its operation.


22.12.2009

First meeting of Regional Expert Network on Energy in South East Europe takes place at RCC Secretariat

A two-day initial meeting of the Regional Expert Network on Energy in South East Europe (SEE), which ended today at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo, discussed the energy policies in the region and its future activities, and produced appropriate documents in terms of its work plan and agenda.

The meeting gathered group of energy experts from the region with broader experience in energy policies and related topics. It discussed the role of the Regional Expert Network on Energy in addressing current regional energy issues, as well as future priority steps.

The purpose of the SEE Regional Expert Network on Energy is to establish close cooperation with the professional energy associations throughout the region, promote their role in expert education and learn from their practice in order to root policy discussions into actual professional practice. The Network will address specific topics from the energy policy agenda and sector policy interrelations, offer opportunities for informal discussion and the stage for policy harmonization.

Opening the meeting, Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minic, stressed that the network will also get engaged in investment promotion, transparency, competitiveness, investment support and public-private partnership related activities of the RCC Secretariat, as well as promote integrated approach in addressing emerging energy challenges by providing platform for active participation of other interested experts.

In addressing specific cross-sector issues, policy problems, global public goods and other relevant aspects, the Network may issue appropriate Position Papers.

The next meeting of the Regional Expert Network on Energy in South East Europe is expected to take place in September 2010.


18.12.2009

RCC delegation visits Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

The RCC delegation headed by the Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minić (sitting, first right), visit Joint Research Centre – Institute for Prospective Technological Studies in Seville, Spain, 18 December 2009. (Photo by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies)

The delegation of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, headed by the Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minić, visited the Joint Research Centre – Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS) in Seville, Spain on 18 December 2009. The meeting, hosted by IPTS Director, Peter Kind, and co-organized by the Centre for eGovernance Development in South East Europe, helped exchange information on the activities of the three institutions and explored avenues for future cooperation. Ambassadors of Serbia and Slovenia to the Kingdom of Spain, H.E. Jela Bačović and H.E. Peter Rebec respectively, were also present.

Jelica Minić drew the attention to the current gaps faced by the Western Balkans countries in the areas of science, research and development, and innovation; and outlined potentials that the region holds in these fields. It was noted that the experience and expertise of the IPTS, as one of Europe's leading policy studies institutions, would be invaluable to the RCC members as they formulate their scientific, research and innovation policies going forward.

The work that IPTS pioneers in Foresight, a future oriented policy formulation framework, was identified as an area of particular interest for Western Balkans countries. If applied correctly, the Foresight framework could yield successful regional policy responses to changing socio-economic and technological landscapes. “We are witnessing an emergence of several regional initiatives geared towards bringing progress in the areas of science, research, education and competitiveness. Finding a way for these initiatives to converge into a common vision for our region is quickly becoming our shared priority”, noted Deputy Secretary General.

Director Kind indicated that JRC-IPTS has considerable interest in the Western Balkans, as evidenced by the work already done by the institution. The Institute is currently involved in wbc-inco.net web-portal programme as part of the consortium to enhance the cooperation between the Western Balkan countries, EU member states, and the EC in the field of science and technology. Also, in an effort to develop a Southeast East Europe Regional Research Strategy, high-level policy and decision makers from the region will attend Foresight trainings hosted by the IPTS during early next year.

The RCC invited IPTS and director Kind to participate at a regional conference on the future of Western Balkans – “Western Balkans 2020” – to be organized by RCC early next year. The participants agreed that this conference would pose a good opportunity to present an outline of a regional Foresight programme and explore interest and readiness of regional stakeholders to take an active role in articulating and implementing the programme.


15.12.2009

RCC, Standing Working Group to promote regional rural development in South East Europe

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević (right), and the Chairman of the Assembly of the Standing Working Group for Regional Rural Development, Dušan Nešković, sign a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation on rural development in South East Europe, Sarajevo, BiH, 15 December 2009. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biščević, and the Chairman of the Assembly of the Standing Working Group for Regional Rural Development (SWG RRD), Dušan Nešković, signed today at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation on rural development in South East Europe.

Cooperation in the rural development area is crucial because it represents an important factor for promoting pro-poor growth, given that the majority of rural dwellers in the region are close to, or below, the poverty line. The MoU signed today will formalize and strengthen the relationship between the RCC and the SWG and enable joint efforts in preparing projects of regional relevance.

Secretary General Biščević and Chairman Nešković underlined the importance of providing opportunities to rural populations and empowering them to lift themselves from poverty and contribute to economic and social development in South East Europe.


11.12.2009

First preparatory meeting of South East European Women Entrepreneurs Conference held at RCC Secretariat

Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minic (first right), at the meeting of the organizational board of the South East European Women Entrepreneurs, Sarajevo, BiH, 11 December 2009. (Photo RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

The organizational board of the South East European Women Entrepreneurs drafted today at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo relevant documents and agreed on further steps in preparing its 2010 Conference, which will be held in the framework of the Turkish Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).

“The goal of the project is to establish a regional network of women entrepreneurs, provide support to the development of innovative financing options, and deliver capacity building in technical skills required to expand, access finance and support a larger business”, said Deputy RCC Secretary General, Jelica Minic, who hosted the event.

The project also aims at addressing three key obstacles to the growth of women entrepreneurship: lack of networking opportunities, difficult access to credit, and lack of specific knowledge and skills.

The participants shared experiences of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and others that provided value added to further networking, training and financing of women entrepreneurs.

Opening remarks were delivered by the Senior UNECE Social Affairs Officer, Malinka Koparanova, and Entrepreneurship Department Director of the Small and Medium Industrial Development Organisation of Turkey, Necla Haliloglu.

The meeting was a follow up to the workshop on Enhancing Women Entrepreneurship in South East Europe, held at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo on 1 October 2009.


24.11.2009

RCC hosts workshop on enhancing cooperation in combating illicit drug trafficking in South East Europe

On 23-24 November 2009, the RCC Secretariat hosted in Sarajevo a regional workshop on enhancing comprehensive cooperation in combating illicit drugs trafficking in South East Europe (SEE). The event was organized together with the Strategic Police Matters Unit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The meeting was opened by Deputy Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mijo Krešić, and the participants included law enforcement officers from OSCE and RCC member states from SEE region, the Russian Federation, The Netherlands, Italy, as well as representatives of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Interpol, Europol and the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) Regional Center for Combating Trans-Border Crime.

Based on the current situation in their respective countries, the drug-fighting experts discussed experiences in identifying the most efficient methods in the law enforcement field to counter illicit drugs trafficking originating from Asia, and transiting through the Balkan route to European markets.

The participants concluded that, since international drugs trafficking criminal groups are constantly seeking the easiest and the most profitable new smuggling routes to consumer countries, the OSCE and other international organizations should strengthen their assistance to the law enforcement agencies in SEE to reduce drugs supply. This should be done both in terms of drug-fighting technology and by increasing global surveillance techniques.


13.11.2009

RCC Secretary General takes part in a summit of Heads of Government of the Central European Initiative

The RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević, participated in a meeting of Heads of Government of the Member States of the Central European Initiative (CEI) in Bucharest today. Secretary General Biščević extended his congratulations on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of successful cooperation and achievements of the Central European Initiative. He further stressed the excellent cooperation that is going on between the two organisations and secretariats. A concrete example of this cooperation is the joint launching of a Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative aimed to contribute to increasing the energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in South East and Eastern Europe.

The RCC Secretary General expressed hope that the renewed engagement of the international community regarding the most challenging remaining issues in South East Europe would create a favourable environment for establishing a lasting peace and enhancing stability in the region. “A great deal of responsibility for this consolidation lies with the governments of the region.  A great deal of responsibility lies also with the EU to embrace this region and avoid undue delay that may bring unwanted strategic vacuum.”

Secretary General Biščević also took part in the Central European Initiative Summit Economic Forum, held in Bucharest on 12 November 2009. He held a keynote speech on the subject of ensuring energy security and the role of Central and South East European Countries. "Energy is one of the most important prerequisites for the overall economic, social and environmental development, stability and prosperity of the region of South East Europe", Biscevic said.

The summit was held within the framework of the Romanian Presidency of the Central European Initiative. The participation of the RCC Secretary General in a summit of the CEI fits into the context of cooperation that is developing on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding cooperation between the RCC Secretariat and the CEI Executive Secretariat as well as within the context of the process of coordination of regional organisations and initiatives, which is intended to strengthen coordination and achieve synergy of activities carried out on the regional level as well as to avoid duplication and overlapping.


20.10.2009

RCC hosts lecture ‘Global Economic Crisis: Implications and the Way Out, for Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans'

Participant of the panel lecture on global economic crisis, that took place in RCC premises, Sarajevo, 20 October 2009. (Photo RCC /Željko Smola)

A panel lecture Global Economic Crisis: Implications and the Way Out for Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans was organized in Sarajevo today by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) and the Faculty of Economics of the University of Sarajevo.

The event brought together lecturers from Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well representatives of government institutions, public officials, business community, academia, diplomatic community, and civil society, who addressed measures to counter the effects of the global economic and financial crisis on the region of South East Europe.

The pannelists discussed the possibilities for the economic crisis to transform into global depression; its implications on politics and business; issues that economists and politicians should know about the crisis; the global crisis and Turkey; influence of the crisis on Bosnia and Herzegovina; as well as the global economic crisis and the Western Balkans.

The participants were greeted by Hido Biščević, RCC Secretary General, and Veljko Trivun, Dean of the Faculty of Economics, University of Sarajevo.

The pannelists included Fatih Özatay, Director of the TEPAV Economic Policy Research Institute; Besim Ćulahović, Director of the Centre for International Projects at the Faculty of Economics, University of Sarajevo; Süreyya Serdengeçti, TEPAV Stability Institute Director and Former Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey; Anto Domazet, Director of the Sarajevo Institute of Economics; and Erhan Türbedar, Coordinator of the Programme for South East Europe, TEPAV.

The panelists' presentations are available as follows:


09.10.2009

RCC Secretary General takes part in informal meeting of South East European Foreign Ministers in Istanbul

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biščević participated in Istanbul in the first informal meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) under the Turkish SEECP Chairmanship.

Secretary General Biščević drew attention of the ministers to the fact that, in light of the current economic and political situation in South East Europe, the countries need to do their utmost to ensure durable stability and inclusion into the EU of the entire region. Otherwise, he stressed, there is a danger of prolonged impasse or instability throughout the parts of the region, as unresolved issues against the backdrop of economic crisis and social disturbances may trigger a reversible course of development.

He also called for a pragmatic dialogue, mutual understanding and appeasement of the parties to the current outstanding issues. “The choice before our region at this point is the choice between durable, lasting stability and EU accession, or prolonged stagnation. It is the choice between the progress and future, or regression and failure." 

The meeting, chaired by Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, served as an opportunity for Turkey to present the activity programme of the Chairmanship, including a calendar of events on a ministerial and expert level. During its SEECP Chairmanship, the Republic of Turkey will focus on stimulating regional cooperation in the areas of industry, economy, foreign trade, transport, energy, culture, and disaster preparedness and prevention.

The participants highlighted the importance of cooperation within the SEECP and RCC frameworks, the significance of support to regional projects and to enhancement of high-level political dialogue in South East Europe. They expressed hope that that the EU and NATO will continue their open door policy towards the countries of the region.

During the meeting in Istanbul, Secretary General Biščević had separate talks with Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Serbia, Greece and other participants of the conference.


08.10.2009

RCC Secretariat hosts 1st Working Group Meeting of Education Reform Initiative of South East Europe

The 1st Working Group Meeting of the Education Reform Initiative of South East Europe (ERI SEE) concluded today at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo. The two-day event gathered representatives of education ministries from South East Europe.

The Working Group is tasked to come up with a module for future functioning of the Initiative, including its legal status, financing, internal rules, scope of activities, as well as the future seat of the ERI SEE Agency. Possible adjustment of the mandate of the ERI SEE is also envisaged, in light of the changed cooperation landscape and efforts in increasing regional ownership in the framework of the Regional Cooperation Council.

The participants agreed to inform their respective ministers on concrete possibilities for future development of regional cooperation in education reform. Conclusions of the Working Group will be presented at the next meeting of the ERI SEE Governing Board planned for 16-17 November 2009 in Zagreb.

Since its establishment in 2004, the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe has supported sustainable education reforms through regional cooperation, and facilitated information transfer between the EU and the SEE region.


16.09.2009

RCC, MARRI to promote rule of law principles in South East Europe

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, and Director of the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI), Trpe Stojanovski, signed today at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo a Memorandum of Understanding on development of an effective regional cooperation on issues of migration, asylum, refugee return, visa policies and border management.

The agreement is to enable cooperation in areas of common concern, in order to promote rule of law principles and strengthen regional cooperation in South East Europe (SEE). More specifically, it will support the efforts of the countries in SEE to respond to and identify the threats emanating from illegal migration and trafficking in human beings; sustain regional cooperation among migration, asylum, refugee, border and consular authorities; and foster collaboration in South East Europe based on shared policy approaches and strategies, transfer of knowledge, experience and best practices, mutual assistance, and implementation of international standards and principles.

Secretary General Biscevic and Director Stojanovski underlined the importance of providing continuous and unreserved support to the development and promotion of regional cooperation, which is also a key to a successful European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the region.


03.09.2009

Senior Greek officials commend work of RCC and its Secretary General

The RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević, held talks in Greece today with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yannis Valinakis, and the Ministry's Secretary General for European Affairs, Dimitrios Katsoudas. The officials discussed political developments in South East Europe and challenges in this respect.

RCC Secretary General Biscevic informed his Greek counterparts of the implementation of the organization's 2009-2010 Strategic Work Programme and discussed possible activities beyond 2010, primarily in identifying large-scale projects aimed at securing further economic and social development of the region. He briefed on preparations for a high-level conference to be organized by the Swedish EU Presidency and the European Commission, with active RCC role, in Brussels, in December 2009, focusing on the European perspective of the Western Balkans, economic crisis, regional cooperation and development projects in South East Europe.

Deputy Minister Valinakis and Secretary General Katsoudas expressed full support to the work of the RCC and its Secretary General, stressing their interest in the December conference and the importance of energy and infrastructure projects for the development of South East Europe.


16.07.2009

First preparatory meeting on establishing South East European Firefighting Regional Center held in Sarajevo under RCC auspices

The first preparatory meeting on the establishment of the South East European Firefighting Regional Center (SEEFREC) was held at the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in Sarajevo on 15-16 July 2009.

The participants, representing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, the World Bank, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), the European Commission, the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for South Eastern Europe (DPPI SEE) and the RCC Secretariat, discussed operational aspects of the SEEFREC establishment and agreed on the future steps in this respect.

They elaborated on the structure, role and mandate of civil protection in disaster risk reduction for South East Europe (SEE) and invited other RCC members from the region to join SEEFREC.

The next meeting, to be hosted by Montenegro and prepared jointly with the RCC Secretariat in October 2009, will gather heads of national fire disaster management institutions from SEE and relevant international partners. It will finalize terms of reference for a comprehensive feasibility study on fire disasters and management needs in SEE.

The World Bank and the UN/ISDR confirmed they would seek financial support for the feasibility study and the workshops related to the establishment of SEEFREC.


08.06.2009

RCC co-organized workshop on energy security held in Belgrade

A workshop “Energy Community and Regional Security”, co-organized by the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, with support of the Energy Community (EC) Secretariat, was held in Belgrade today.

The event focused on security of energy supplies and the role of Energy Community, climate change and national security, discussing EC Treaty as a legal basis, market developments within the EC, investments, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and social dimensions of the EC.

The opening remarks were delivered by Chair of the parliamentary Committee on Industry of the Serbian Assembly, Milorad Buha; Senior RCC Expert on Infrastructure and Energy, Miroslav Kukobat; and Director of Energy Community Secretariat, Slavtcho Neykov.

The participants agreed on major challenges to be addressed in the energy sector: reaching cost-reflective energy tariffs to support new investments and energy efficiency measures, keeping regional approach, and promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources as the major tools to reach sustainable economic growth in the region. It was agreed to strengthen further contacts between the Serbian Assembly and the RCC and the EC Secretariats.

The workshop targeted members of parliament and parliamentary expert staff dealing with energy issues. It is the first in a series of events organized based on the conclusions of the regional workshop “Parliaments – Support to Harmonized Energy Reforms in South East Europe”, held in Sarajevo on 15 December 2008, in order to facilitate the lawmaking process and increase the ability of parliaments to oversee their governments in energy reform process.

More information on this event is available also at the websites of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and the Energy Community.


19.05.2009

RCC Secretary General meets EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy

During a visit to Sarajevo today, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, met with the RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, to reiterate EU support to RCC activities.

High Representative Solana highlighted the importance of RCC work at this moment in time, when the region of South East Europe needs to take decisive steps in democratic reforms and towards European integration.

Secretary General Biscevic informed the EU High Representative of the first year of RCC operation, the constant support received by the EU, and the active cooperation established with the governments of the RCC members from South East Europe. He stressed the RCC engagement in promoting the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, as well as in facilitating development projects in the region.

The two officials also discussed the upcoming RCC Annual Meeting in Chisinau, Moldova, on 4 June, which is to be held back-to-back with the Summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), and the December conference to be organized with the incomimg Swedish EU Presidency, focusing on regional development projects.


12.05.2009

RCC Secretariat and CEI Executive Secretariat to strengthen cooperation

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biščević, and Secretary General of the Central European Initiative Executive Secretariat (CEI-ES), Ambassador Pietro Ercole Ago, signed in Sarajevo today a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that formalized cooperation between the two institutions.

The MoU will provide a general framework for enhancing project-oriented cooperation between the RCC Secretariat and the CEI-ES on issues of interest for South East Europe, transfer of know-how, seminars and training courses. It will enable the RCC Secretariat and the CEI-ES to carry out jointly a number of activities taking advantage of available funds and expertise, as well as assuring the best use of the existing cooperative network.

A joint “Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative – SEDRI” will be the first project launched within the cooperative framework defined by the MoU. The SEDRI is aimed at establishing a framework for cooperation as well as at supporting the elaboration of concrete actions and projects in sustainable energy development. The initiative is expected to improve legislative, institutional and regulatory frameworks and to promote the construction of small-scale sustainable energy facilities in South East and East Europe. It should contribute significantly to increasing energy efficiency and to promoting use of renewable energy sources in the region.


30.04.2009

RCC Secretary General gains support of Swiss officials for RCC projects

The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biscevic, held consultations in Berne today with the Deputy State Secretary of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Helg, on cooperation among RCC members and upcoming projects in the organization’s priority areas of economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital, and parliamentary cooperation.

The two officials also discussed the situation in South East Europe. Secretary General Biscevic stressed three main messages he is conveying throughout the region: additional urgency that the countries of the region need to apply with reference to the EU integration, greater self-responsibility, and perseverance with reform projects connected to EU accession. He announced preparation of a high-level conference planned for December 2009, together with the upcoming Swedish EU Presidency, that would focus on stimulating development in the region.

Deputy State Secretary Helg commended the work and results of the RCC. He expressed his Government’s support to the RCC activities, especially in light of the announced December conference. He added that South East Europe is a priority region for Switzerland.

During his visit to the Swiss capital, the RCC Secretary General also met Assistant Director General and Head of Department for the Cooperation with Eastern Europe and CIS of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Therese Adam, and presented her with the upcoming and planned RCC projects. Adam expressed her full support to the work of the RCC and its Secretariat.


20.04.2009

RCC Secretary General speaks to Council of Europe Development Bank officials

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic met today in Paris with officials of the Council of Europe Development Bank, including the Bank’s Vice Governor Imre Tarafas, to explore the ways the two institutions can cooperate the best in the future.

The RCC Secretary General briefed Mr Tarafas and the Bank representatives in great details about the RCC’s work in the priority areas of economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital, and parliamentary cooperation.

Secretary General Biščević informed of RCC activities on establishing a cooperation mechanism among RCC Secretariat, RCC National Coordinators from South East Europe, the European Commission and relevant international financial institutions, aimed at stimulating development in the region.

Mr Tarafas expressed great interest in the work of the RCC, especially in relation to the cooperation mechanism and the organization’s social agenda in the areas of education and health. He stressed the Bank’s readiness for close cooperation with the RCC in these fields.


16.04.2009

RCC Secretary General meets Hungarian officials over RCC priorities

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic held consultations in Budapest today with State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gabor Szentivanyi, and other ministry officials, on RCC work and Hungarian contribution to the activities of the organization.

Secretary General Biscevic spoke about the need for sharing experience between RCC members from South East Europe (SEE) and those from other parts of Europe, and proposed ways how Hungary, as an EU member, can contribute to keeping the EU attention on the SEE and accelerating the region’s European integration.

State Secretary Szentivanyi gave his country’s full support to the RCC work and stressed three important things for regional development – free movement of people, joint infrastructure projects among the SEE countries to better connect the countries of the region but also the region with the rest of Europe, and establishment of education institutions which would promote regional mobility of students.

The RCC Secretary General stressed the RCC role as the key EU interlocutor for development issues in SEE, and highlighted several quick-start projects the RCC has been finalizing, such as the establishment of the South East Europe Regional Fire-Fighting Centre and the Southeastern-Central Europe Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, as well as a project to promote sustainable use and integrated management of the region's inland waterways.


14.04.2009

RCC Secretary General holds consultations with Czech EU Presidency and delivers lecture at Prague Institute for International Relations

Within regular consultations with the EU Presidency, the RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, met today with the First Czech Deputy Foreign Minister, Tomas Pojar, to discuss current situation in South East Europe (SEE) and cooperation between the RCC and the Presidency.

The two officials spoke about preparations by the RCC Secretariat and the Moldovan Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) for the RCC Annual Meeting on 4 June and the SEECP Summit on 5 June in Chisinau, especially in view of the current situation in Moldova, following the recent parliamentary elections.

They pointed to a need to show restraint and use diplomatic means in overcoming current difficulties. The two officials highlighted the importance of the Summit, especially at the present moment when the region is very much feeling effects of the economic crisis, which in turn can affect social and political situation in the region. They confirmed that all those interested in permanent stability and development in SEE should work towards diffusing the tensions.

Secretary General Biscevic also informed Mr Pojar of the initiative to launch a cooperation process among the countries of SEE on large scale development projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure and transport.

The Czech EU Presidency informed of the calendar of meetings and decisions expected to be taken by the end of June, including those related to the submitted Montenegrin and the expected Albanian applications for EU membership, as well as those linked to a visa liberalization regime for the Western Balkans.

The meeting touched upon a possibility for the Czech EU Presidency to provide support to the process of consultations among Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders, especially in light of a recent visit to Sarajevo of Czech Foreign Minister and current President of the EU Council Karel Schwarzenberg, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

During the visit to Prague, the RCC Secretary General also held a lecture “South East Europe at the Crossroads: Facing Future Challenges Together” at the Institute for International Relations.


25.03.2009

RCC Secretary General holds consultations with 2010 Spanish EU presidency

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic met in Madrid today with the Secretary of State for Europe at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Diego López Garrido, and other high-level officials of the Ministry, for consultations on RCC activities and the role of Spain as a future EU presidency holder.

Secretary General Biscevic outlined the RCC activities in the priority areas of economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital and parliamentary cooperation.

State Secretary López Garrido expressed full support of his government to the RCC work and underlined that Spain recognized negative impacts of the current financial crisis on South East Europe. In that context, it was stressed that development of large scale regional projects, in the areas such as transport infrastructure, energy and use of inland waterways, would be an important stimulus to the region in countering the crisis effects.

Mr López Garrido said that Spain would build on the conclusions and results of its predecessor, the Swedish EU presidency, and assured of a continued engagement of his country with the region of South East Europe.


19.02.2009

RCC National Coordinators from South East Europe meet in Sarajevo

National Coordinators from RCC members from South East Europe (SEE) held their first meeting in 2009 in Sarajevo today, to discuss the most recent RCC activities.

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic informed the Coordinators about his contacts with the EU and the European Commission in particular, in light of the current economic and financial situation and implications for SEE. The need for a more coherent and coordinated approach to the crisis was strongly emphasized.

The Coordinators reviewed future steps in the process of networking between the RCC members from SEE and the RCC Secretariat, with the participation of the European Commission and relevant international financial institutions, aimed at identifying and developing possible concrete cooperation projects in the five priority areas of RCC activities.

They also continued talks on regional cooperation priorities and the level of harmonization of national activities and strategies with the RCC Strategic Work Programme 2008-2009 as well as with the EU’s Multi-beneficiary IPA Programme 2008 priorities.

The Coordinators worked to identify possible specific cooperation areas and to develop concrete projects within the RCC framework, including regional responses to the international financial crisis and a proposal for establishing South East Europe Investment Bank (SEEIB).


03.02.2009

RCC leadership discusses European perspective of South East Europe, at a regional meeting in Belgrade

The “European Perspective of South East Europe (SEE) in the Time of Challenges: Dealing with Economic and Energy Crisis” was the topic of a regional meeting held in Belgrade, on 2-3 February 2009.

The meeting, hosted by the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bozidar Djelic, discussed SEE perspective of the EU Enlargement policy in light of the economic and energy crisis and the forthcoming European elections, as well as regional cooperation throughout the European integration process, including both the individual approach to meeting membership criteria and joint approach towards the EU in representing regional interests.

The participants included high government officials from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as RCC Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, Hido Biscevic and Jelica Minic, respectively.

More information on the meeting can be found HERE.


04.02.2009

RCC Secretary General meets Chair of BiH Council of Ministers over investment initiative

The RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, met today the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nikola Spiric, to discuss investment possibilities in South East Europe.

Chairman Spiric presented an initiative to establish the South East European Investment Bank, which would focus on increasing competitiveness in the region through financing specific regional projects in the area of infrastructure, energy and entrepreneurship.

The two officials agreed that, in view of the current economic crisis, such an initiative could provide a new channel of cooperation, enhancing regional development and contributing to an accelerated EU integration processes.

The RCC Secretary General agreed to bring the idea to the attention of RCC members and the European Commission.


19.12.2008

Chair of EP Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South East Europe visits RCC Secretariat

The Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South East Europe, Doris Pack, met today with the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic at the premises of the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo.

Secretary General Biscevic informed Chairwoman Pack of the Secretariat’s activities in the priority areas of economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital and parliamentary cooperation.

Doris Pack expressed interest in the RCC Secretariat’s work, especially when it comes to parliamentary cooperation, and in learning more about the activities of the Sofia-based Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in South East Europe. She positively assessed the RCC efforts to raise awareness at the level of parliaments of the key priority areas in South East Europe, such as energy, education and environmental protection.


05.12.2008

RCC Secretary General takes part in 16th OSCE Ministerial Meeting

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic participated at the 16th Ministerial Council Meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that took place in Helsinki on 4-5 December 2008.

He informed the meeting participants of RCC priorities, structure of the RCC Secretariat as well as ongoing projects of the organization, and proposed that the RCC and OSCE explore the possibilities for strengthening cooperation.

Ministers, representatives of international organisations and other high officials reviewed the current situation and perspectives of international relations in the field of democratisation, human rights, rule of law and other priority areas of the OSCE.  Participants paid special attention to possible effects of the current financial and economic crisis on political stability of Europe as well as implications of new and residual crisis issues in Europe and Eurasia on present security and stability order.

Discussion on the future of the European security architecture took place and the participants underlined the need of the OSCE to reposition itself in the fundamentally changed world.


21.11.2008

RCC Secretary General discusses organization’s activities with Irish officials

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic received support of the Irish Government to the work of the RCC Secretariat at a consultative meeting held with representatives of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs on 20 November 2008.

During the talks, Secretary General Biscevic expressed strongest interest of Southeast European countries in EU resolving its present institutional issues in order to ensure the European perspective for all Southeast European countries.

He informed of a networking mechanism designed by the RCC Secretariat in support of development-oriented projects in Southeast Europe. It comprises RCC members from Southeast Europe, the European Commission, international financial institutions and RCC experts.

The RCC Secretary General also delivered a keynote address on development, synergy and challenges in Southeast Europe at the Institute of European Affairs in Dublin, on 21 November 2008.


18.11.2008

RCC Secretary General holds consultations with UK officials

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic met today in London with the Director of the Western Balkans at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Daniel Fearn, and other FCO officials, for consultations regarding the activities of the RCC Secretariat.

Mr Fearn expressed satisfaction with the RCC Secretariat’s work and underlined Great Britain’s full support to its continued efforts in fostering regional cooperation and European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Secretary General Biscevic informed Mr Fearn of the RCC activities currently underway, including the projects of establishing the South East Europe Regional Fire-Fighting Centre and the Southeastern-Central Europe Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, and the planned conferences on better use of inland waterways and improvement of air connectivity in Southeast Europe.

The RCC Secretary General highlighted the organization’s role in preparing regional projects to be financed through the EU Multi-beneficiary IPA Programme and informed of the networking mechanism between the Secretariat, the RCC members from Southeast Europe, the European Commission and international financial institutions aimed at maximizing regional development potential. 


07.11.2008

RCC National Coordinators from Southeast Europe meet in Sarajevo

The RCC National Coordinators from Southeast Europe met in Sarajevo today to discuss the regional cooperation priorities and level of harmonization of national activities and strategies with the RCC Strategic Work Programme 2008-2009 as well as with the Multi-beneficiary IPA Programme 2008 priorities.

The meeting participants received an update from the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on the most recent activities of the organization, including continuation of political consultations with RCC members, further cooperation with the European Commission and the quick-start projects currently being developed with international partners. These projects aim at establishing a Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility and a Regional Firefighting Centre, as well as organizing conferences on better use of inland waterways and on improvement of air transport network in Southeast Europe.


31.10.2008

RCC Secretary General takes part in World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic participated in the work of the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia, which concluded in Istanbul today.

Secretary General Biscevic spoke at the “Lisbon Goes East” session and informed the Forum participants of RCC priorities, focusing on regional development projects and activities in the sphere of economic and social development, energy and infrastructure.

The Forum discussed present economic and financial situation in the world and issues such as EU enlargement, energy security, regional competitiveness, global economic outlook and business risk in the region.

Secretary General Biscevic held a separate meeting with Børge Brende, World Economic Forum's Managing Director for Governments, Regional Activities and Constituents.


23.10.2008

Montenegro signs SEECP charter on good neighborly relations

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic signed today in Bucharest the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Charter on Good Neighborly Relations, Stability, Security and Cooperation in Souheastern Europe, thus fully formalizing Montenegro’s participation in the SEECP.

The RCC is an operational arm of the SEECP. Its Secretariat supports the SEECP in the preparation and implementation of decisions of SEECP Summits and/or Ministerial meetings.


08.10.2008

RCC Secretary General moderates Crans Montana Forum session on EU enlargement and regional cooperation

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic moderated the plenary session of Crans Montana Forum in Sarajevo on 8 October 2008, dedicated to the European enlargement and regional cooperation.

Secretary General Biscevic highlighted that the topics of the Forum matched to a great extent the priorities of the RCC Secretariat, especially in the fields of energy, infrastructure, and economic and social development.

He pointed out the importance of such an event taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as an impetus to further development in the region and an excellent opportunity to foster cooperation and networking among the countries of Southeast Europe, business leaders from Europe and the world, European political leaders and representatives of international organizations.


26.09.2008

RCC Board met in Sarajevo on 6 October

The 29 members of the RCC Board met for the first time at the premises of the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo on 6 October 2008.

The Board reviewed activities of the RCC Secretariat in the period May-October 2008, in light of the quarterly report of the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic, and discussed future activities and projects within the RCC framework.

The RCC Board provides the organization with operational guidance and supervision. It consists of those RCC members contributing to the budget of the RCC Secretariat as well as the European Union, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the EU Council Secretariat.

The Board meets quarterly, at the level of RCC National Coordinators, which are Senior Civil Servants in each RCC member responsible for co-ordination of RCC relevant issues within their respective national administration. It is chaired by the RCC Secretary General.


27.07.2008

SEE Heads of Government meet in Salzburg

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic participated in the annual informal meeting of Heads of Government of Southeast European (SEE) countries organized by the Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer in Salzburg on 27 July 2008.

The Prime Ministers from six SEE countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia) discussed key regional issues, including economic cooperation and effects of global energy crisis and climate changes on the region.

Secretary General Biscevic highlighted RCC priorities in the areas of economic and social development, infrastructure and energy, justice and home affairs, security cooperation and building human capital. He requested that the role of RCC National Coordinators from SEE be reinforced, as such a mechanism would strengthen cooperation in the priority areas. The Secretary General also informed of the present state of play of RCC networking with the European Commission and international financial institutions.

The participants hailed the arrest of the ICTY fugitive Radovan Karadzic and reiterated that European integration was the joint strategic goal of the region. Chancellor Gusenbaur stressed that EU enlargement to SEE had no alternative and that Austria would continue to be its strong advocate.


30.06.2008

RCC National Coordinators from SEE hold first meeting in Sarajevo

The 30 June 2008 meeting at the premises of the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo assessed the level of harmonization of national activities and strategies with the 2008-2009 RCC Strategic Work Programme, and with the priorities of the 2008 Multi-beneficiary Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) Programme of the European Commission.

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic and experts of the organization informed the participants of RCC activities and cooperation with the European Commission, international financial institutions and other international organizations.

The participants agreed to work jointly on RCC visibility in the region, as well as on coordination and networking to make the regional cooperation more effective and prevent overlapping among various regional initiatives.


21.05.2008

RCC Board adopts the organization’s 2008-2009 Strategic Work Programme

On 20 May 2008 in Pomorie, Bulgaria, the RCC Board adopted a report by the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on transformation of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe into the Regional Cooperation Council, as well as the RCC Strategic Work Programme for 2008-2009 and the appointments to the positions in the RCC Secretariat.

The RCC strategy was also approved by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the South-East European Co-operation Process (SEECP) on 20 May and endorsed by the SEECP Heads of State and Government on 21 May.


19.05.2008

Three-day SEECP summit events start in Pomorie, Bulgaria

On 19 May 2008, the political directors of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) are meeting in Pomorie, Bulgaria, to prepare for the Ministerial and Summit meetings on 20 and 21 May.

At the same time, on 20 May, the RCC Board is expected to adopt a report by the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on transformation of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe into the Regional Cooperation Council, as well as the RCC Strategic Work Programme for 2008-2009 and the appointments to the positions in the RCC Secretariat.

The SEECP Summit is also expected to discuss the political situation in South Eastern Europe.


28.04.2008

RCC work and staff presented to the public

On 28 April 2008, the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hido Biščević, presented the media with RCC priorities, staff and premises. The event was also attended by the Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Erhard Busek.

Biščević and Busek stressed that the RCC establishment represented a historical step forward for the countries of the region, as they for the first time took ownership and leadership of regional cooperation into their own hands.