Newsletter 6/2010 - Activities in brief

South East European public broadcasters request support from European institutions to avoid digitalization gap

Two-day international conference titled Addressing Europe’s Digital Divide: Towards Sustainable Public Service Media in South East Europe was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 14-15 October 2010, with the participants agreeing on concrete conclusions stipulating future cooperation in the region.

They agreed on the establishment of an enduring cooperation aimed at ensuring the sustainability of all public service broadcasters in South East Europe by 2020; promotion of the values and principles of public service media, as recognized by the Council of Europe and the European Union; and called on the European Union to support these goals politically and financially under its aim to guarantee European cohesion.

The document was officially signed by European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Vice-President Claudio Cappon and Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General Hido Biscevic, as the conference’s two co-organizers.  

The participants of the conference recognized that issues as big and complex as digitalization and sustainability of public service broadcasters could not be resolved by individual broadcasters alone but required a wider regional effort.

The participants pledged to work to ensure a smooth digital transition in South East Europe and called on European institutions for financial support in the interest of European cohesion.

Speaking at the conference, Rudo Vidovic, Minister of Communications and Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina highlighted that the responsibility for introduction of digital broadcasting came from international agreements, adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina should finalize this transfer by the end of 2012.

Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General assessed that the most frequent threats to digitalization were lack of political determination and funds for implementation.

“It is important to raise public awareness on the need for timely transfer to digital broadcasting in order to maintain the role of public broadcasters as key actors in development of knowledge-based society. Equally important is not to allow for digital gap in the region in comparison to the rest of Europe.”

Claudio Cappon, EBU Vice-President, said that transformation of public broadcasters was a development opportunity but also a challenge of financial, technological and institutional nature.

“This conference is a first step of public broadcasters from the region towards the modern Europe. Investments in public broadcasters should not be looked at as a cost but as an investment in the future.”

The conference was organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The participants comprised over 50 senior representatives of governments, broadcasters and regulators from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey, as well as the EU and other relevant institutions.

Parliamentarians from Western Balkans and Turkey agree to develop new models of cooperation in fight against poverty and social exclusion

Representatives of national parliaments from Western Balkans countries and Turkey met to discuss ways to fight poverty and social inclusion at the regional conference that was held in Belgrade on 11-12 October 2010.

Parliamentarians from Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Turkey agreed to harmonise national legal systems with the European Union (EU) one as well as to develop new models of cooperation in fight against poverty and social exclusion.

The regional conference titled “Fight against Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Context of European Integration Process: The Role of National Parliaments” was organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, with support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

The event was opened by Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia; Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General; Anna Ibrisagic, Member of the European Parliament; Vincent Degert, Head of Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia; and Michael Ehrke, Director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Belgrade.

In her opening remarks Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic underlined that fight against poverty and social exclusion requires partnership necessary to face this common challenge, reminding the present that the EU declared the year 2010 a year of fight against poverty and social exclusion. 

“This partnership involves cooperation of not only Governments and Parliaments of our countries but also civil society, international organisations, private sector, media and other interested players.” 

Hido Biscevic, RCC Secretary General, said that the fight against poverty is an important focal point around which regional cooperation should evolve.

“I expect that in the forthcoming period Western Balkan countries and Turkey would improve their legal capacities in order to harmonise legislation with that of the EU. Our parliaments should act to ensure that positive political trends in the region are now translated into an irreversible process and concrete development projects to the benefit of our citizens.”

Vincent Degert, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, reminded that supporting and assisting the most vulnerable society groups should not be looked at as a cost but rather as an investment in the future.

Initiative on sustainable energy development for South East Europe launched in Trieste

Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative (SEDRI) was launched in Trieste, Italy, at its first task force meeting held on 7-8 October 2010. The meeting was co-organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat and the Executive Secretariat of the Central European Initiative (CEI).

The initiative was launched with the support of nine countries: Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine. SEDRI aims at promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, as well as contributing to sustainable energy development and mitigating climate change in South-East and Eastern Europe.

The CEI and the RCC are strongly committed to the SEDRI initiative, which, with its replication potential,  represents a concrete step towards coordination, collaboration and fostering regional cooperation, based on promotion of construction of small scale sustainable energy facilities.

Senior RCC Secretariat’s Expert on Infrastructure and Energy, Miroslav Kukobat, who chaired the meeting, underlined that the launching of the initiative would start a solid framework for regional cooperation in the field of sustainable energy development as the major component of the overall sustainable development.

“Mitigating climate change represents a major challenge that requires global solutions, while sustainable energy is the most important tool for coping with the problem. This is the rationale behind SEDRI and the reason the RCC supports this activity.”

The initiative is targeted towards the RCC members and CEI member states from South East Europe and Eastern Europe, which are not member states of the European Union.

Senior officials and experts in the field of sustainable energy representing ministries and relevant specialized institutes and agencies from Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Moldova, Romania and Serbia, who participated at the meeting, discussed SEDRI priority areas and project proposals. The proposed approach is compliant with the EU’s integrated energy and climate policy.

As agreed by the participants, Serbia would be chairing SEDRI Task Force in the future period.

Development of Western Balkans education capacities over the next 10 years should be strategic, says international conference in Dubrovnik

A three-day international forum on higher education reform was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia between 27 and 29 September 2010, with the participants agreeing that the future focus should be put on a strategic development of Western Balkans’ education capacity over the next 10 years, in the context of the EU higher education area.

The International Forum on Higher Education Reform Foresight 2020 was organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, the University of Novi Sad and the University of Zagreb. The Forum is a follow-up of the biannual international conferences on higher education (Novi Sad 2005, Dubrovnik 2007, Sarajevo 2009).

RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević and Rector of the University of Zagreb, Aleksa Bjeliš addressed the participants at the beginning of the event.

“If the countries of South East Europe want to meet the challenges of the 21st century and sustain their prosperity in the face of growing global competition, they will have to pull together their own resources in the ongoing process of promoting knowledge as its main factor of competitiveness”, said Secretary General Biscevic.

The Dubrovnik Conference was launched to address a set of issues that are crucial to the implementation of the European Higher Education Area and to promote more effective regional cooperation.

The Final Recommendation calls for a strong and renewed effort to speed up the process of institutional reforms, by rethinking the role of governments in providing incentives for higher education reform, professionalising the public management of higher education, integrating university into single legal entity and thus encouraging trust in institutions.

Participants emphasized the importance of the RCC Secretariat’s flagship initiative, Building Capacity for Structural Reform in Higher Education of Western Balkan Countries, which has been recommended for funding through the regional dimension of TEMPUS Programme. A steering group on higher education structural reform will be established under the RCC umbrella. The project amounts to 800.000 euro, with the implementation expected to start in November 2010.

Workshop on democratic policing in South East Europe discusses application of best practices in the field

A two-day regional workshop on democratic policing organized by the OSCE Strategic Police Matters Unit with the support of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) was held in Sarajevo on 30 September and 1 October 2010.

More than 40 senior police officers from OSCE and RCC members from South East Europe, policy and management experts from the OSCE region and international organizations as well as civil society participated in the workshop.

During the event participants discussed applicability of best practices in the law enforcement field with a special emphasis on democratic policing, strategic planning and good governance for managing police reform in the region.

OSCE Senior Police Adviser Knut Dreyer in his opening remarks stressed that a lot of time was needed to thoroughly reform a police structure, adding that the most important task was change of police culture and leave behind the earlier traditions and practices of policing.

Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General, highlighted the concrete impact this type of activity has had on the efficiency of the police work.

“The region has been working on police reform for the past 15 years. Now, we have started seeing the results of such efforts with the police that have become more focused on serving the community. Still, a lot of work remains to be done, especially in developing human resource management systems in law enforcement, also in light of EU accession requirements in the area of justice and home affairs.”

The RCC Secretariat sustains an integrated regional approach on police cooperation and reform, through its recently-adopted Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013. Together with relevant stakeholders, the Secretariat is preparing a Strategic Regional Document which will enhance coordination of regional organizations with the EU and international agencies.

This workshop was a part of a series of OSCE-facilitated regional events focusing on democratic policing. Previous events were held in Central Asia and in Eastern Europe.

First Forum for South East European Women Entrepreneurs held in Istanbul

Participants of the First Forum for South East European (SEE) Women Entrepreneurs, held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 21-22 September 2010, called for more efforts to promote women’s entrepreneurship by government structures, civil-society organizations, private financial institutions and universities.

The two-day event was held to provide a platform for the exchange of experiences and best practices, and to promote the further integration of women entrepreneurs’ networks in the region.

The Forum was organized by the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Development Administration of Turkey (KOSGEB) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat, in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), under the auspices of the Government of the Republic of Turkey.

Opening remarks were delivered by the RCC Secretary General, Hido Biščević; Minister of Family Affairs of Turkey, Selma Aliye Kavaf; Minister of Industry and Trade of Turkey; Nihat Ergün; President of KOSGEB, Mustafa Kaplan; Head of Balkans Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, Gül Büyükerşen Oral; and Senior UNECE Social Affairs Officer, Malinka Koparanova.

“Gender inequality is a big issue in the labour market globally,” said Hido Biščević, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council.

“Women face constraints in many sectors and female entrepreneurs have to be encouraged to enter non-traditional sectors such as information technology.”

Minister of Family Affairs of Turkey, Selma Aliye Kavaf said that unless women were included in manufacturing and other industrial sectors, a good strategy for the development of labour markets could not be expected. 

“We need to apply positive discrimination for women entrepreneurs, as this will contribute not only to the improvement of employment, increasing exports and the added value created in the economy, but also because it would promote social development,” KOSGEB Chief Mustafa Kaplan said in his speech at the event.

This event, targeting women entrepreneurs who intend to expand or innovate their businesses, is part of a project developed by the RCC Secretariat and the UNECE, and launched in Sarajevo in October 2009.

Participants of the event included national women entrepreneurs associations as well as prominent individual women entrepreneurs from South East Europe.

Regional Cooperation Council’s Board establishes task force on culture and society

A Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Task Force on Culture and Society was established on 16 September 2010 by the decision of the Organization’s 28-member Board, which met in Sarajevo.

The RCC Task Force, with a Secretariat based in Cetinje, Montenegro, will take over the coordination of activities envisaged by the second phase of Ljubljana Process – a project of rehabilitation of cultural sites throughout South East Europe, worth 1,600,000.00 Euro. The implementation of the project will start in January 2011. The Task Force will be in charge of management and fund-raising activities and work with national task forces which will be created in each country of the region.

The regular quarterly meeting of the RCC Board also heard a report by the RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic on the activities of the organization’s Secretariat since May 2010 as well as the announcement for planned events. The report is available HERE.

The RCC Board meets quarterly 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, represented by the Troika, consisting of the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat.

Nine South East European military intelligence chiefs sign cooperation statement

Nine military intelligence chiefs from Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) members from South East Europe signed a statement on cooperation among their institutions, on 30 September 2010 in Belgrade, at the Second South East European Military Intelligence Chiefs Conference (SEEMIC).

This first of the kind statement represents a commitment of the signatories to establish and further develop cooperation in the field of security and intelligence on the regional level.

The statement on cooperation was signed by military intelligence chiefs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It remains open for signature to all the chiefs of military intelligence institutions of the RCC members from South East Europe.

The SEEMIC Conference was hosted by the Military Intelligence Agency of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia and co-organized with the RCC Secretariat, under the patronage of the Director of the European Union Military Intelligence Staff.

The conference was opened by Minister of Defence of the Republic of Serbia, Dragan Sutanovac, who accentuated the conference’s positive contribution to the enhancement of interstate relations among South East European countries.

Welcoming addresses were delivered by RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, and Acting Director of the Military Intelligence Agency of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia, Brigadier General Dragan Vladisavljevic.

The RCC Secretary General Biscevic stressed that the event was a big step forward in the efforts to further build mutual confidence in South East Europe. He added that cooperation among the military intelligence was a sign of maturity and commitment of the South East European countries to confronting regional security threats through organized and systemic joint efforts.

The event in Belgrade gathered chiefs and representatives of military intelligence services from 12 South East European countries, the RCC and the European Union Military Intelligence Staff.

The next, third SEEMIC meeting will be hosted by Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2011.