Newsletter 24/2012 - Activities in brief

Brussels policy dialogue ‘Unity in diversity’ discusses regional cooperation, Balkans and EU relations

The policy dialogue discussing status and potentials for advancement of regional cooperation of the Balkan countries in the context of the European Union, under the “Unity in diversity” motto was held in Brussels, Belgium, on 7 December 2012.

The event was co-organized by the European Policy Centre (EPC), in cooperation with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Balkan Trust for Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The participants of the panel discussed ways to advance regional cooperation in the Balkans in the present economic and political climate in Europe; what can individual Balkan countries and existing regional structures do to seize the benefits of regional cooperation; to what extent is the South East Europe 2020 strategy part of the solution in the current context and how can the EU better promote regional cooperation in the Balkans.

Speaking as a panellist, Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General, spoke about the cooperation between the Western Balkan countries in the areas of economy, culture, justice and home affairs, security, public health, energy, and transport, underlying that the preparation of the South East Europe (SEE) 2020 strategy proves the capacity of the region in terms of vision building, but also serves as an umbrella strategy for the regional development.

“Continued assistance from the European Union (EU) is however needed in many areas such as social development, through EU programmes supporting vocational training, life-long learning, reforms in labour market, where regional objectives have been identified trough Social Agenda for the Western Balkans 2020 as constitutive part of the SEE 2020.”

The policy dialogue gathered high-level panelists: Jelica Minić, Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council; Joost Korte, Deputy Director General for Enlargement in the European Commission; Dusko Lopandic, Assistant Foreign Minister of Serbia and co-author of the book ‘Regional initiatives and multilateral cooperation in the Balkans’, and Selma Prodanovic, CEO of Brainswork and President of IncredibEurope.

The meeting was followed by a live concert of traditional music from the Balkans performed by singers Biljana Krstic and Amira Medunjanin, who participated in the production of the  the RCC-sponsored CD “Les femmes des Balkans”.

Regional Cooperation Council honoured for extraordinary contribution to humanism with Sloboda award

The International Peace Centre Sarajevo (IPC) assigned its traditional Sloboda (Freedom) award to the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) for extraordinary contribution to humanism, fight for human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Europe and the world.

The RCC has been honoured on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, marked on 10 December 2012. The IPC has traditionally assigned the award to deserving individuals and groups for the past 18 years.

“I am pleased that the IPC has recognized the persistent work the RCC and its staff are investing in bringing the people in South East Europe closer together, through dialogue, good neighbourly relations, in an atmosphere of tolerance and cooperation“, said Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General.

“This is a great motivation, and an obligation, for the future. I assure you that the RCC staff will keep doing their best to be worthy of the recognition bestowed upon them.”

President of the IPC Sarajevo, Ibrahim Spahić said that the RCC earned the award due to the organization’s “outstanding role in developing euro-regional cooperation in South East Europe, creating stable and safe atmosphere for initiating economic and social development, and instigating European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the region to the benefit of its people and peace in this part of Europe”.

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.

The awards will be presented at a special ceremony during the opening of the 29th international festival Sarajevo Winter 2013, on 7 February 2013.

Policy paper on ‘new skills for new jobs’ in Western Balkans adopted in Sarajevo

A policy paper on ‘new skills for new jobs’ in the Western Balkans was adopted at a meeting hosted by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 21 November 2012.

The conference was co-organized by the RCC Secretariat and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES). It gathered representatives of Western Balkan governments, researchers, social partners, and international organizations.

The policy document elaborates a broad platform for regional cooperation on job creation and presents current efforts of the RCC Secretariat and the countries in the region to formalize a regional response to Europe 2020 strategy.

Opening addresses were delivered by Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General, and Roland Feicht, Director of FES Project for Labor Relations and Social Dialogue in South East Europe.

In her address, RCC’s Minic spoke about the policy guidelines on development of new skills for new jobs, explaining that the document tackles a wide platform for regional cooperation aimed at job creation, focusing on establishment of regional labour information system, education, training, lifelong learning, and local innovations in job creation.

“The main goal is to ensure reforms fostering labour market in the region, increasing labour mobility, improving training and securing that the financial assistance coming from the EU and other donors is channeled in the most appropriate way for the countries concerned.”

Minic added that political will was important for job creation but also that the interested parties had to apply some pressure.

“If the administrations are expected to resolve the problem it could be a long wait. Trade unions, employers, academic institutions, etc. have to put pressure to accelerate the process.”

Highlighting the unemployment as one the major problems in the region, Feicht said that only the well-educated and qualified labour could attract investors and create new jobs. 

“Education and vocational training that have to be directed towards attractive industries, such as very competitive ‘green industry’ and services, are of extreme importance.”

The meeting is a follow up to the conferences organized by the RCC Secretariat and the FES in October 2011 and July 2012. Mainstreaming the social development agenda into economic policy reforms and deliberations is an RCC priority. The organization views promotion of social economy and new jobs creation as a key to economic and social development in the region.

Task Force of Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative met in Belgrade

The 3rd Meeting of Task Force of Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative (SEDRI) took place in Belgrade, Serbia, on 7 December 2012. The event was co-organised by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, the Central European Initiative (CEI) Executive Secretariat and the Ministry of Energy, Development and Environmental Protection of Serbia.

The meeting discussed current status and next steps in promotion of sustainable energy and small-scale sustainable energy projects, needs and priorities for regional cooperation in sustainable energy that are not covered by other regional energy cooperation frameworks.

Consultations on strengthening regional cooperation on sustainable energy, based on the EU-supported initiative ‘Improving Cooperation in South East Europe by Actions for Strengthening the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat’ which created room for enriching the SEDRI initiative, were launched during the meeting.

Participants of the meeting included senior officials in the area of sustainable energy development from competent ministries of ten countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine), institutions organizing the event, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as representatives of relevant institutes, independent experts and other stakeholders.

The SEDRI was initiated by the CEI and the RCC in 2009 with the aim to coordinate efforts of the two organisations in launching a joint action in the area of sustainable energy development. The three main objectives of the Initiative are: to encourage the improvement of legislative, institutional and regulatory frameworks that would facilitate the development of sustainable regional energy sector; to promote the construction of small scale sustainable energy facilities; and to strengthen a framework for cooperation in the field of sustainable energy development including awareness raising, education, research and scientific cooperation.