Newsletter 25/2013 - Activities in brief

Regional Cooperation Council’s Board amends organization’s statute to allow participation of Kosovo*

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Board decided to amend the statute and the list of participants of the organization, reflecting the results of the European Union-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, at its first meeting in 2013 held on 28 February in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The participation of Kosovo* in the Regional Cooperation Council confirmed the organization’s full dedication to ensuring all-inclusiveness in its activities, and demonstrated that the region is able to take responsibility for its own future.

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 a day earlier.

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.

* 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.

5 years of Regional Cooperation Council marked in Sarajevo

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) marked its 5th anniversary with a panel discussion and an award for best achievement in cooperation in South East Europe in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 27 February 2013.

The discussion Five years of Regional Cooperation Council: Building on foundations and embracing new challenges focused on achievements and future challenges of regional cooperation in South East Europe.

On this occasion, the RCC Secretariat inaugurated annual award for best achievements in cooperation in South East Europe, Champion of Regional Cooperation. The first laureate for the year 2012 is the Central European Free Trade Agreement – CEFTA 2006. The award was presented to Renata Vitiez, Director of CEFTA Secretariat, by the RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic. 

Special acknowledgements for dedication to the region and promotion of regional cooperation in South East Europe were awarded to Hido Biscevic, first Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, and to Erhard Busek, former Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

The panellists and special guests included: Goran Svilanović, RCC Secretary General; Zlatko Lagumdžija, Deputy Chair of the Council of Ministers/Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ivan Naydenov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria; Vlado Misajlovski, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chair-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in 2012-2013; Radu Podgorean, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania, incoming Chair-in-Office of the SEECP; Vera Mavrić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, preceding Chair-in-Office of the SEECP; Kieran Dowling, Ambassador of Ireland to Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union; and Stefano Sannino, Director General for Enlargement of the European Commission.

The Regional Cooperation Council was established in Sofia on 27 February 2008. It promotes 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.

German ambassadors from Western Balkans extend support to RCC work

Ambassadors of Germany from Western Balkans (Belgrade, Podgorica, Prishtina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tirana), accompanied by their colleagues from the foreign affairs ministry, discussed political situation in Western Balkans and the region’s European perspective during a visit to the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 11 March 2013.

“We are proud to have supported the Regional Cooperation Council for the past five years. We find the organization instrumental in promoting and strengthening stability, economic and social development, as well as European integration in South East Europe”, said Ambassador Nikolaus Graf von Lambsdorff, Director for Western Balkans and Turkey at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

RCC Secretary General Goran Svilanovic thanked the ambassadors for the continuous German support to the work of the RCC Secretariat, especially its communication activities.

“The RCC has profiled itself as the focal point for regional cooperation and key EU partner in this respect. This strengthened our position of the chief regional organization when it comes to development issues in South East Europe (SEE), as demonstrated by the central role the organization has received in designing the SEE 2020 regional growth strategy.”

The officials reiterated Germany’s support to the RCC and its Secretariat in the future.

The German delegation included Ambassador Graf von Lambsdorff, Ambassador Heinz Georg Wilhelm (Belgrade), Ambassador Pius Fischer (Podgorica), Ambassador Peter-Christof Blomeyer (Prishtina), Ambassador Ulrike Knotz (Sarajevo), Ambassador Gudrun Elisabeth Steinacker (Skopje), and Ambassador Carola Müller-Holtkemper (Tirana).

South East Europe Investment Committee meeting focuses on regional growth strategy

Development of the South East Europe (SEE) 2020 regional growth strategy by the end of 2013 and its implementation were the main topics of the 12th South East Europe Investment Committee (SEEIC) Meeting, which was held in Sarajevo, on 19 March 2013. The Committee adopted an updated work programme to reflect this primary focus of its work.

The SEE regional growth strategy stipulates reaching ambitious goals by the year 2020, such as: regional GDP increase from 38% to 46% of EU average; total value of regional trade increase by 130%; and the trade deficit decrease from 14.1 to 11.6% of the regional GDP.

These targets were adopted by the SEE ministers of economy in November 2012 to guide the strategy preparation. The SEE 2020 strategy is to be finalized by the end of 2013.

The strategy is expected to provide for growth in trade and export rates; higher level of direct foreign investments; higher number of registered new businesses; increased employment with higher salary rates; and for an increase in the number of highly educated workforce. It also aims to improve public administration, strengthen the rule of law, and improve government efficiency.

The event was co-organized by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, as co-chairs of the SEEIC. It was held back-to-back with the CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement) 2006 deputy ministerial meeting.

The SEEIC and the CEFTA cooperate closely on SEE 2020 strategy aspects that aim to increase the intra-regional trade and inflow of foreign investments. The SEEIC meeting also discussed their forthcoming mutual activities in this area.

The 12th SEEIC meeting brought together SEEIC participants, Western Balkans economic teams, representatives of the European Commission, regional partners and initiatives, international organizations, and the donor community.

Regional Cooperation Council awarded for extraordinary contribution to humanism

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) received 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 in Sarajevo, on 7 February 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.

“This award makes our 5th 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.