Newsletter 17/2011 - Activities in brief

Commitment to regional growth boosted at high level meeting on information society development

A high level meeting on information society development in South East Europe (SEE) was held in Tirana, Albania on 7-9 November 2011. The meeting aimed to further enhance cooperation on economic and social development in SEE and reap the full potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to spur innovation, economic growth, regional competitiveness and improved quality of life.

The three-day event that was held within the framework of the Electronic South Eastern Europe (eSEE) Initiative has been organized by the Albanian Ministry of Innovation, and Information and Communications Technologies, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

While addressing the participants in the opening remarks, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha stressed importance of the conference and said that digital technology was “in many aspects the Archimedes’s screw to overcome hard times, catch up for the lost time, offer citizens best services, but also to establish the foundation of transparency as a major condition for good governance”.

Genc Pollo, Minister for Innovation and ICT of the Republic of Albania, noted that the ICT has become indispensable tool for developing knowledge based economy, and a paramount tool to improving governance.

“The Initiative, that is also part of our collective and individual EU integration efforts, has proved to be an important forum where we report achievements and challenges, compare notes on a variety of issues and freely discuss the way ahead together with the industry, academia and civil society.”

The participants, lead by the South East European ministers in charge of information society development adopted a joint statement, reaffirming commitment to the implementation of the e-SEE Agenda+, as a regional ICT development framework, and to the e‑SEE Initiative cooperation. They also revised the implementation deadlines and updated the benchmarks of the e-SEE Agenda+ for the development of Information Society in SEE. 

The meeting welcomed the work of the RCC and the UNDP in promoting regional cooperation in the area of Information Society, and their efforts in encouraging the SEE countries on their path to Euro-Atlantic integration. They invited them, the European Commission, and other partners to continue supporting the implementation of this agenda, by means of political, financial and technical assistance.

Independence and sustainability of public service media in South East Europe focus of Sarajevo conference

A Conference titled South East Europe 20 Years On: Transformation from State to public Broadcasting devoted to identifying ways for achieving full financial sustainability and editorial independence of public service media was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 14 November 2011.

The event was co-organized by the European Commission (EC)’s Enlargement Directorate-General and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, with support of the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

While addressing the participants at the beginning of the Conference Rudo Vidović, Minister of Communications and Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina, commended RCC efforts to find the best model for an efficient regional cooperation in the field.

“By taking part in such initiatives, Bosnia and Herzegovina has demonstrated clear commitment to development of pluralism, democratic society and free media as the only way towards having a modern, stable and developed country.”

Welcoming the participants, RCC Secretary General Hido Biščević said that South East Europe (SEE) and its broadcasters had gone a long way over the past 20 years of transformation from state to public broadcasting, often under very difficult conditions.

“Transformation under the circumstances of a complex heritage of the past has required a serious mind- and value-shift. But, despite the difficulties, the progress is evident, in terms of improved legislative framework, freedom of expression and professionalism.”

According to Andris Kesteris, Principal Advisor on Civil Society and Inter-institutional Relations at the EC’s Directorate General for Enlargement, some challenges remain before the SEE public service media in the process of transformation from state to genuine public service media.

“Editorial independence of media outlets starts with achieving their economic and financial sustainability and autonomy. Public service media are not an exception, and a reform in this respect should be embarked upon. ”

Kesteris underlined that the seminar is the first regional event dedicated to public service media with support and participation of the European Commission, following the adoption of the 2011 Enlargement Package.

Josip Popovac, President of the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe, explained that almost all public service media in the region have similar or comparable problems, and forming of the Association represents a joint effort to tackle them.

“Preconditions for successful public service media are political and economic independence, stable financing and public supervision. Their future depends on maturity of democracy, development of civil society, trust in regulation, and nourishment of independent journalistic professionalism. Cultural and social value of public service media must be above their market value and political attempts to control them.”

The conference gathered over 50 directors general of public service media, senior government officials, representatives of regulatory authorities and civil society from the Regional Cooperation Council’s 12 South East European members.  

The participants discussed the current state of play of public media service in SEE and ways ahead aimed at improving economic standing, editorial independence and autonomy. They concluded that in order for public service media to fulfill their pivotal role in SEE societies and avert political interference and dependency on the state, they need to gain managerial stability, ensure sustainability and stable funding.

A future course of action in support of freedom, independence and sustainability of the public service media was identified and recommended by the participants in the conference CONCLUSIONS available HERE.

European Commission to commit over 130 million euro to regional cooperation projects in Western Balkans in 2012

An Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) Multi-Beneficiary Programme Coordination Meeting on regional cooperation took place at Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 15-16 November 2011.

More than 70 meeting participants, representing beneficiaries’ IPA coordination offices from the Western Balkans and Turkey, the European Commission, the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat, international financial institutions and other donor institutions discussed priority sectors for strategic interventions for the 2012 IPA Multi- Beneficiary Programme, as well as preliminary outlines for the programme in 2013.

The 2012 IPA Multi-Beneficiary Programme supports regional cooperation in several key political and economic sectors such as higher education, public administration reform, parliamentary cooperation, fight against organized crime and corruption, statistical cooperation, Western Balkans Investment Framework, civil protection, youth action, and improved governance and management in the region. The value of the projects discussed is over 130 million euro.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to reflect on the latest Enlargement Package 2011-2012, brief beneficiaries on their role and responsibilities in the programming exercise considering the current transition towards a more strategic sector wide approach (SWAP), and report on the preparations of the next IPA regulation.

The meeting was hosted by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the opening remarks delivered by the RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević, and Head of EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU Special Representative, Ambassador Peter Sorensen, importance of regional cooperation as an essential element of the EU integration was stressed.

 “By pooling together all regional stakeholders around concrete projects in the fields of rule of law, freedom of expression, economic cooperation, research and innovation, transport and energy, the RCC contributes to efforts to create an environment conducive to political and socio-economic progress, and the overall stability in the region”, said Secretary General Biscevic.

Ambassador Sorensen underlined the RCC’s role in facilitating parliamentary cooperation in Western Balkans and Turkey.

“In addition, the region needs to develop infrastructure if it wants to catch up with competitiveness, develop an export driven economy, and attract foreign direct investment.”

Regulation of informal settlements in South East Europe discussed at conference on urban planning

Regulation of informal settlements in South East Europe (SEE) was discussed at a conference that took place at the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 October 2011.  

This regional event was co-organized by the Network of Associations of Local Authorities in South-East Europe (NALAS), the RCC Secretariat, the German International Cooperation (GIZ), the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM), and an Association of Municipalities and Cities from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The meeting brought together urban planning experts, representatives of municipalities, associations of local self-governments and relevant ministries from South East Europe, as well as international organizations.

Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General, said in the introductory remarks that the development of sustainable communities, strategic urban management and access to affordable housing play a key role in the context of a broader socio-economic development of SEE.

“Top priority should be given to strengthening networks of governmental agencies, national municipal associations, civil society and academic institutions, expected to serve as sustainable structures for regional cooperation.”

The conference presented and discussed results of the SCTM-lead project “Comparative Analysis of Legal Frameworks Relevant for Urban Planning in South-East European Region”.

The project involved 13 urban planning experts from NALAS members in South East Europe, and was implemented by the SCTM over the past 11 months, with support of the GIZ-Open Regional Fund for South East Europe. Its objective was to compare and assess relevant legislation in SEE, and make recommendations for preventing further development of informal settlements while regulating the existing ones.

In its Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, the RCC recognizes the Network of Associations of Local Authorities than involves over 4,000 local authorities from South East Europe as the most relevant partner in promoting cooperation at this level.