RCC and Regional Initiatives and Task Forces in South East Europe
The RCC Secretariat has not only forged cooperation with the regionally-led initiatives, networks and International Organizations which were inclined to assist in the area of parliamentary cooperation but also with individual parliaments in the region as well. There are three regional initiatives which have been established since the Stability Pact for SEE: The Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in SEE (RSPC SEE) in Bulgaria, the Cetinje Parliamentary Forum (CPF) in Montenegro and the Conference of the European Integration Parliamentary Committees of States participating in the Stabilisation and Association Process (COSAP). From the three regionally-led initiatives mentioned, COSAP is the most active and autonomous network vis-a-vis RCC. Closer and more active cooperation was established with the Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in South Eastern Europe and the Cetinje Parliamentary Forum, whereby RCC input was required to a greater extent
Good cooperation was fashioned also with the European Parliament, whereby the RCC has facilitated the EP on targeting key experts on regional thematic issues and also offered the participation of RCC experts on various thematic meetings involving either MPs or parliamentary staff from the Parliaments of the Western Balkans.
1. Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in South Eastern Europe (RSPC SEE) – Sofia
The RSPC SEE Secretariat has been functioning since 2008 following the decision to reach a more effective, co-ordinated and much more institutionalised sustainable co-operation structure between the parliaments of the region. Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in SEE has been established after the endorsement of the meeting of SEECP Speakers of the Parliament in 2008, signing of the MoU, and the decision to locate it in the premises of the National Assembly of Bulgaria. The role of the Regional Secretariat was intended to be a focal point which would coordinate all regional parliamentary cooperation activities among SEECP participating countries. The Bulgarian parliament has provided office space and appointed 2 persons to work in the secretariat, while the current and future Chairs of SEECP did not fulfill the agreement to second their representatives to the Secretariat, as was agreed at the meetings of the Speakers of parliaments in 2008.
Programming of activities proved difficult and very rigid since all agreements have to formally go through yearly meetings of SEECP Speakers of Parliament. So far one such meeting (in Sofia) was held since the Secretariat was established. The meeting of SEECP Speakers of Parliament in 2009 was cancelled due to political turmoil in Moldova. The understaffed RSPC SEE, the delay of SEECP Speakers of Parliaments meeting in 2009, and several election cycles in the countries of SEE in the past two years have contributed to the lack of concerted activities on parliamentary cooperation. The next SEECP Speakers of Parliaments meeting under Turkish SEECP CiO is scheduled for June 2010. At this meeting, guidelines and procedures for the RSPC SEE are expected to be endorsed.
Needs of Parliaments from Western Balkans countries differs in a sense of urgency and substance (EU perspective) from other members of SEECP (all of the rest already MS of the EU, Moldova covered under ENP) which all belong to the same RSPC SEE umbrella. Plans of activities delivered in cooperation with the European Parliament/DG Relations with National Parliaments, are mostly related to the SAp and involve only Parliaments from WB countries, which causes criticism from other countries belonging to RSPC SEE.
2. Conference of the European Integration Parliamentary Committees of States participating in the Stabilization and Association Process (Western Balkans COSAP)
The Western Balkans COSAP was created in Sarajevo on 16-18 June 2005 as a result of the Thessaloniki Summit held in 2003, whereby all WB countries were granted membership perspective once they individually meet the accession criteria. According to the Western Balkans COSAP Rules of Procedure, adopted at its first meeting held in Sarajevo in 2005, the Conference has a rotating Chairmanship, held in alphabetical order by the Chairman of the Committee for European Affairs of the presiding country, and meets at least twice a year to discuss issues related to the Stabilization and Association Process and to EU enlargement. The meetings, multilateral in nature, are usually scheduled taking into consideration also the COSAC meetings calendar and are organized and hosted by the presiding country. A troika composed by the Chairs of Committees for European Affairs/integration of the previous, current and future presidency ensures coordination of activities. Five meetings were held so far since its creation with only 2007 and 2008 COSAP was dormant.
The Western Balkans COSAP has a clear agenda and a perspective, it aims at strengthening cooperation between the Committees of National Parliaments dealing with European Affairs (which is not a novelty in the European Union itself as indeed member Parliaments and the European Parliament gather twice a year in a framework called COSAC).
The RCC has taken part in all COSAP activities and has followed its work. This is one of the successfully established networks which is functional, has a clear agenda and operates as a strong network between parliamentary committees dealing with EU affairs in WB countries and with significant help from European Parliament.
3. Cetinje Parliamentary Forum
The Cetinje Parliamentary Forum is an initiative undertaken by the Parliament of Montenegro since 2004 to encourage and promote Parliamentary dialogue and cooperation between the countries of the region. The Cetinje Parliamentary Forum offers the possibility to share experiences and best practices and to rationalize Parliamentary work, especially in relation to the implementation of EU standards into national legislation and in other issues of common regional interest. To this end, and in order to promote a closer and more focused dialogue, the Cetinje Parliamentary Forum organizes meetings, which gather together representatives of Parliaments at different levels: Speakers of Parliaments and/or Deputy Speakers; Presidents/chairmen of Parliamentary Committees; Members of Parliaments; Secretaries of Parliaments; Secretaries of Parliamentary Committees and expert associates.
The Forum hosts also the meetings of the Parliamentary dimension of the Adriatic-Ionian initiative. So far the Forum has organized six meetings, two for the Speakers of the Parliaments and four for the Speakers of the Parliaments and specific Committees. The first and founding meeting took place on 8 and 9 February 2004 and gathered together Speakers and Deputy Speakers of the Parliaments of participant countries. The 8th meeting of Cetinje held this year on 24 April was held back to back with COSAP meeting in Cetinje.
While COSAP is held only on the level of Parliamentary Committees dealing with European Affairs, Cetinje Parliamentary Forum has a wider scope of activities tackling other parliamentary committees as well. Cetinje Parliamentary Forum has also premises and infrastructure in Cetinje, the traditional capital of Montenegro. The RCC Secretariat is venturing the idea in consultations with the Montenegrin National Assembly and upcoming Montenegrin SEECP CiO (from June 2010) in striving to build consensus with other parliaments of the region to undertake the institutionalization of Cetinje Parliamentary Forum. Creation of CPF as an operational hub would provide significant impetus for strengthening existing mechanism for cooperation in the WB in the parliamentary dimension, in particular in the area of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.