Newsletter 29/2013 - Activities in brief

South East Europe 2020 strategy for creating 1 million jobs in the region adopted

The Regional Cooperation Council’s (RCC) strategy for growth of South East Europe (SEE)-SEE 2020 was adopted at the Ministerial Conference of the South East Europe Investment Committee, co-chaired by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the RCC in Sarajevo, on 21 November 2013.

Creation of one million new jobs in SEE until 2020 is the most important aim of the strategy dubbed “Jobs and Prosperity in a European Perspective”. The ministers put forward food and beverages processing and tourism as the priorities for action under SEE 2020.

The event brought together economy ministerial delegations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, representatives of the European Union and other regional and international partners and initiatives, international organizations, and donor community.

The goal of the SEE 2020 strategy is to improve living conditions in the region and bring competitiveness and development back in focus, closely following the vision of the EU strategy Europe 2020. It stresses out the shared vision of the SEE economies to open up to 1 million new jobs by 2020, by enabling employment growth from 39% to 44%, increase of total regional trade turnover by more than double from 94 to 210 billion euro, the rise of the region’s GDP per capita from current 36% to 44% of the EU average, and the addition of 300,000 highly qualified people to the workforce.

Prior to the adoption the RCC Secretariat conducted a series of presentations of the first draft of the SEE 2020 strategy throughout the region. The presentations included seven workshops in the Western Balkan region in the period between 10 September and 1 October 2013 (Skopje, Pristina, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Belgrade and Tirana) gathering around 300 participants as part of the outreach effort on the SEE 2020 strategy.

The main purpose of the in-country workshops, co-hosted by line ministries, was to engage in broader consultations on the first draft of the SEE 2020 strategy and expand the stakeholders’ base to include civil society, private sector, donors and other interested parties.

The SEE 2020 document that itself draws inspiration from the EU strategy Europe 2020 was developed by the RCC Secretariat in consultations with governments from SEE, European Commission and relevant regional and international institutions, following a mandate by the region’s ministers of economy.

* 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.

Western Balkan Ministers adopt Regional Research and Development Strategy for Innovation

The Western Balkans Regional Research and Development (R&D) Strategy for Innovation was adopted by the ministers of science from the region during the ministerial meeting on regional R&D in Zagreb, Croatia, on 25 October 2013.

Research and innovation are at the heart of the European Union's (EU) strategy for growth and jobs – the Europe 2020 strategy – as they are important drivers of economic growth, and contributors to raising productivity and creating employment opportunities.This focus on research and innovation has been recognized by the countries of the Western Balkans as they work to find ways towards economic recovery.

Aiming to jointly improve the quality of research and innovation, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo**, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia for the first time collaborated to develop a Western Balkans Regional Research and Development (R&D) Strategy for Innovation.

The Strategy will serve as a framework for a collective effort to recommend policy and institutional reforms, and promote the Western Balkans’ most urgent priority of increasing innovation, economic growth, and prosperity. At the policy level regional cooperation will create positive peer pressure and serve as credible commitment for implementing reforms at the national level and promoting integration of the region into the European Research Area (ERA). Integration in international scientific and innovation networks and technologically advanced production chains is fundamental for the quality and impact of R&D throughout the region.

Innovation is the cornerstone of the South East Europe (SEE) 2020 Strategy, adopted recently at the Ministerial Conference of the South East Europe Investment Committee by the region’s ministerial delegations in Sarajevo. The regional R&D strategy serves as a building block of the smart growth pillar of the SEE 2020.

The ministerial event was hosted by H.E. Željko Jovanović, the Minister of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, and brought together ministers of science of the beneficiary countries, representatives of the European Commission, the Regional Cooperation Council, and the World Bank.

The implementation centre of R&D strategy will be in Split, Croatia and Serbia is to chair the region’s countries in the process.

The work on the Strategy was supported by the World Bank and the European Commission, and was financed through a Multi-beneficiary Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council oversaw the implementation of the project.

* 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.


Intensified regional cooperation on integrated water resources management in South East Europe agreed at RCC-hosted roundtable

Key issues that South East Europe (SEE) needs to address in water resources management and hydropower production until 2020 involve: closer regional cooperation of water, energy and environmental sectors on the sustainable use of waters; involvement of private sector in water infrastructure development; and introduction of a regional legal and coordination instrument to ensure achievement of these goals, as concluded at a three-day international roundtable on water and energy nexus in transboundary basins in the region held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 6-8 November 2013.

The participants underlined the necessity to identify steps and measures needed in the mid-term for advancing the sustainable provision of water, energy and food security in an integrated way, known as “Water, Energy and Food nexus approach”, at national, transboundary and regional levels. They called for investigating opportunities to launch a political process under Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) auspices to enhance cooperation in SEE in the field of transboundary water resources management.

The meeting initiated a wider dialogue on water, energy and food nexus in SEE, as means to promote sustainable river basin management and identify projects to be included in a new phase of the Mediterranean Component of the EU Water Initiative (MED EUWI). Participants debated ways to reach sustainable hydropower goals in SEE until 2020, in line with the RCC’s SEE 2020 development strategy.

The roundtable was co-organized by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety; the RCC Secretariat; the Global Environment Facility (GEF) IW: LEARN project; and the Global Water Partnership Mediterranean (GWP-Med), within the frameworks of Petersberg Phase II/Athens Declaration Process on promoting transboundary water resources management in SEE, and the MED EUWI.

Roundtable participants included some 80 practitioners and decision makers in water resources management and hydropower production from national authorities from SEE, major international organizations and private sector active in the field.


Work on common railway system in South East Europe agreed at a congress

Over 250 participants from eleven countries from South East Europe (SEE) agreed at the 2nd Congress on Railways in South East Europe to work on a common railway system in the region. A two-day Congress was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 26-27 September 2013.

The Congress discussed transportation policy, development strategies, railway management, railway infrastructure, mobile capacities, traffic safety, interoperability, environmental protection, and financing.

The participants concurred on a need to redirect road to rail transport, develop ancillary infrastructure and transport terminals, and strengthen logistic chains and interoperability to raise the quality of services along the transport network. They agreed that railways are the safest mode of land transport of passengers and goods which, compared to other transport systems, is more environmentally acceptable and cost-effective.

“Modernization of infrastructure, particularly railways, in our region is of an utmost importance for reviving national economies at this time of crisis”, said Svetlana Gligorovska, RCC Secretariat’s Expert on Infrastructure, while addressing the Congress.

“Ideally, all South East European railways would implement a set of synchronized and sequenced actions. Therefore, within its SEE 2020 strategy, the RCC has identified a need to focus on interoperability, competition and implementation of adopted EU acquis, and on a truly regional approach to dealing with complex systems such as railways.”

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.

The 250 experts in developing rail transport system, management, construction, maintenance, protection of the environment, railway safety, consulting and financing of the railway infrastructure, as well as scientists and governmental representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, other South East European countries, and international organizations took part in the event.

Contribution to enhancing and modernizing railway infrastructure is a priority of the transport sector of the RCC Secretariat’s Strategy and Work Programme 2014-2016, and of the SEE 2020 strategy as its core element.

Public sector communicators from South East Europe create professional association

The South East Europe Public Sector Communication Association (SEECOM) was established at the 2nd South Eastern European Government Communication Conference in Budva, Montenegro, on 29 September 2013.

The conference focused on government communication in citizens’ service, optimisation of resources in public communication, usage of modern technology for improvement of two-way communication, social media, communicating EU integration, and regional cooperation.

SEECOM is created as an international, non-profit, professional association of senior public sector communicators from the region. According to the statute, the Association will work to advance professional development and networking; stimulate partnerships with non-governmental actors, first and foremost media and civil society organizations; promote citizen engagement and good governance through transparency, accountability and free and easy access to information in public sector; advocate for higher professional standards, values and ethics of public sector communication, as well as use of innovation and new technologies.

Jovan Tegovski, Chief of Staff at the RCC Secretariat, recalled that the economic crisis that hit South East Europe had made communication ever more important, making it imperative for governments to be in constant communication with their citizens to explain what is it that they are doing to help them overcome the present difficulties.

“A deepening of the dialogue between state actors and media and non-governmental community is the niche the RCC considers of a paramount importance for securing the well-being of a society, its economic prosperity and development, in line with goals of the SEE 2020 strategy the countries of the region are currently preparing under RCC coordination.”

Krunoslav Vidic from Croatia was elected the Chairman of the Association and Vuk Vujnovic from Montenegro the Secretary General. Members of the Steering Board are Christian Spahr (KAS Media Program South East Europe), Dinka Zivalj (RCC) and Nadica Dujovic (UNDP).

The conference was organized by the Public Relations Bureau of the Government of Montenegro, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Montenegro, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, and the US Embassy in Podgorica. It gathered 80 top government communicators from all over South East Europe, communication experts from Europe and the US, as well as PR managers and heads of communication from the region.