Newsletter 23/2012 - Activities in brief

Economy ministers of Western Balkans agree on 11 targets for regional economic growth by 2020

Western Balkans economy ministers adopted 11 targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the region, to be reached by 2020. The commitment was made at the ministerial conference of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)'s South East Europe Investment Committee (SEEIC), held in Tirana, Albania, on 9 November.

These targets represent the basis for a regional South East Europe 2020 (SEE 2020) strategy, inspired by the Europe 2020 strategy, but adjusted to the specific realities of the region. They include increasing regional GDP per capita from 38% to 46% of the EU-27 average; growing the region’s total value of trade in goods and services by more than 130%; and reducing the trade deficit from 14.1 to 11.6 per cent of the regional GDP.

Furthermore, the ministerial declaration aims at increasing intra-regional trade in goods by more than 230% to 42 billion euro, the overall foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to 7.5 billion euro, and the GDP per person employed by 33%. Other targets seek to increase the rate of enterprise creation by 20%, exports of goods and services per capita from the region by 130%, and the overall employment rate by 12%. They envisage adding 300,000 highly educated people to the region’s workforce, and increasing government effectiveness by 20% by 2020.

The ministers committed to strengthening economic and social development across South East Europe and integrating the region more closely with the European Union. They emphasized the importance of a continued private-public sector dialogue and cooperation at national, regional and European level to help meet the SEE 2020 headline targets. The economy ministers also called on the EU to support SEE 2020 within the enlargement process, and tasked the RCC SEEIC with preparing the SEE 2020 Strategy and Action Plan, containing a roadmap for implementation. The document will be adopted at the next ministerial meeting at the end of 2013.

The ministerial conference was co-organized by the RCC’s South East Europe Investment Committee and the Government of the Republic of Albania, current co-chair of the SEEIC. It followed the preparatory meeting of the South East Europe Investment Committee (SEEIC) members held at the RCC Secretariat in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 3 October 2012. At this meeting a set of targets for integrated, smart, inclusive and sustainable growth in the region until 2020 was supported by the participating SEEIC members, representatives of national Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) coordination offices, the European Commission, international organizations, donor and business community.

Museums network in South East Europe established at ministerial conference in Skopje

South East European Museums Network aiming to enhance cross-border cooperation between these cultural institutions was established at a ministerial conference held in Skopje, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on 13 November 2012.

The ministers of culture adopted a joint statement, enabling the Network to foster cooperation among national museums in South East Europe (SEE), and to develop projects at regional and international levels.

While opening the event, Elizabeta Kančeska-Milevska, Minister of Culture of the host country said that the event itself clearly highlighted affirmation and respect for different cultural expressions in all forms, management of cultural heritage, and strengthening of cultural tourism.

“We are actively concentrating our efforts on the promotion of the principle of understanding and good neighbourly relations between SEE countries along with the networking of their institutions and entities in regional projects in different areas.”

The RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević, emphasized that the region would strongly benefit from the creation of the museums network, given the museums, as institutions that have such a strong educational, social and economic dimension, needed to open their programmes and capacities for cooperation with their neighbours.

“Preserving and further improving multi-cultural harmony and inter-religious relations are of a particular importance for the entire region, especially the Western Balkans. This approach can only complement the EU perspectives of the countries from the region.”

The conference participants also discussed current status of the region’s national museums as guardians of culture and heritage, models of their management and existing partnerships.

The event was co-organized by the Ministry of Culture of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as the current Chair-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, and the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society. It gathered ministers of culture from South East Europe, directors of national museums, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

3rd road congress agrees on further development of road infrastructure in South East Europe

A two-day Road Congress in South East Europe that gathered over 400 participants from ten countries was concluded with an agreement to establish a professional regional forum for the development of the road sector. The Congress was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 20-21 September 2012.

The congress discussed strategies of road transport system development, design of relevant studies, road construction and maintenance, safety, financing, environmental protection and road management.

The participants, including 100 experts in planning and development of the road transportation system, management, construction, maintenance, protection of the environment, road safety, consulting and financing of the road infrastructure, as well as scientists and governmental representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, other South East European countries, and international organizations, analyzed the current situation and future challenges in developing the road infrastructure in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.

They agreed that the countries in the region need to establish a favourable investment climate to encourage private sector participation in financing road transport and to use expert knowledge to become more efficient in planning and implementing future projects. They concluded that more efforts in upgrading the current road routes need to be invested while putting special focus on the poor connections at cross-border points.

The event was co-organized by the Association of Consulting Engineers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACE BiH) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, with support of the Ministry of Communications and Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina and relevant international professional associations.

The congress called on relevant national authorities to demonstrate strong political will and be firmly committed to the transport policy reforms, strongly cooperating at regional level. It emphasized the need for more efficient utilisation of available EU funds in order to achieve concrete and tangible results in this sector.

Contribution to the promotion of road infrastructure and safety by supporting implementation of relevant EU directives has been recognized by the RCC Secretariat’s Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 as a priority activity in the transport sector.

2.2 million euro worth Women entrepreneurship – a job creation engine for South East Europe project launched in Sarajevo

Women entrepreneurship – a job creation engine for South East Europe, a 2.2 million euro worth project was launched in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 4 October 2012.

The 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 project launch.

The purpose of project 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. 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. They have a key role in establishing the policy framework and creating the right incentives that will produce smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.”

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.

* 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.

Sarajevo hosted conference focusing on lifelong learning and non-formal adult education in South East Europe

The conference Lifelong Learning and Non-formal Adult Education in South East Europe, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 3 October 2012 discussed ways to build knowledge-based society in the region by increasing participation in adult learning.

The meeting was co-organised by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the Head Office for South East Europe of the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education (dvv international).

The meeting gathered close to 80 representatives of institutions responsible for adult education in South East Europe, as well as relevant international organisations, civil society networks, independent experts and other stakeholders.

The participants worked to strengthen social partnership for further development of adult education sector in South East Europe, addressed common quality standards and inclusion of marginalized groups. They supported implementation of European and international goals for lifelong learning and adult education through exchange of experience, promotion of good practice and identification of points of intervention for regional cooperation.

Opening addresses were delivered by Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General, and Beate Schmidt-Behlau, Regional Director of dvv international.

The RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 recognizes the need for modernization of education systems in South East Europe, including in the areas of lifelong learning, adult education and evidence-based policy making. dvv international has been promoting development of lifelong learning strategies in the region for 10 years, with support of the German government.

RCC Board reviews cooperation in South East Europe

The outgoing RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic presented a report on activities of the organization’s Secretariat in the period May-October 2012 that includes results achieved in the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, as well as information on the future plans, at the last meeting in 2012 of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 18 October 2012.

“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.