- Our South East Europe
Key achievements of the first year of implementation of RCC Strategy and Work Programme, and a way forward
The year 2011 has been the first year of implementation of the Regional Cooperation Council’s (RCC) Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013. This year also marked the significant shift in operations of the organisation - from the period of transition from the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe to a well-set and recognised regional partner and factor of regional development in South East Europe (SEE).
Today, the RCC with its Secretariat is a flexible, regionally-owned organisation with deployed multi-fold activity, capable of addressing and representing regional interests as well as initiating and supporting regional cooperation.
The work of the RCC in the priority areas of economic and social development; infrastructure and energy; justice and home affairs, security cooperation; building human capital, parliamentary cooperation and media development resulted in a number of specific achievements in regional cooperation in South East Europe.
Economic and social development
In economic and social development, the RCC took over management of the SEE Investment Committee (SEEIC) that has been transferred from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with financial support of the European Commission (EC).
”In the context of the 2020 vision for SEE and under the auspices of the RCC, during the next year the SEEIC is expected to assess the degree of economic convergence between SEE and EU-27 and produce a set of headline targets for a regional 2020 strategy”, says Sanjin Arifagic, Head of Economic and Social Development Unit at the RCC Secretariat.
The organisation also contributed to the regional dialogue on the preparation of a joint declaration on securities market cooperation. It will continue to explore possibilities of further integration of the capital markets in the region and contribute to the establishment of a platform for joint action in this area.
Nand Shani, RCC Expert on Economic and Social Development adds that that RCC has initiated regional discussion on social topics in the context of a social agenda for the Western Balkans (WB) 2020, in cooperation with key partners, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and London School of Economics’s Research Network on Social Cohesion in SEE.
”The topics elaborated so far include employment generation as well as new skills and jobs, while other potential topics include pension and health system reform as well as alignment with the social acquis.”
The RCC organised ministerial conferences on public health and information society with the aim of renewing political commitment and setting forth a clear path for future cooperation in these fields, and will continue to actively participate and support the technical cooperation process during the next year, towards the implementation of commitments taken at these conference.
Infrastructure and energy
“Implementation of the Sustainable Energy Development Regional Initiative (SEDRI), jointly launched by the RCC Secretariat and the Central European Initiative (CEI) to fill the recognized gaps in the regional energy cooperation, resulted in the establishment of SEDRI Task Force”, says Miroslav Kukobat, Head of Infrastructure and Energy Unit at the RCC Secretariat.
Kukobat explains that preparations of the initial SEDRI Project Proposals Inventory offers possibilities for the Initiative’s beneficiaries to cooperate, raise funds, exchange information and best-practices with prospects to create an appropriate platform for transforming the project proposals from the inventory into the bankable projects.
He adds that the RCC Secretariat has also initiated mapping of activities and establishing cooperation between regional players in the area of Climate Change Adaptation, taking into account relevance of strengthening regional cooperation in this area.
In the domain of infrastructure and transport, the RCC Secretariat together with the interested regional stakeholders prepared a project proposal for a study on the development of air traffic links in South East Europe to be financed within the Multi-Beneficiary Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (MB IPA) programme/Western Balkan Investment Framework (WBIF), as well as an initiative for regional strategy regarding railway transport and infrastructure development..
“The study is aimed to improve current air traffic services as an important infrastructural support to an enhanced business climate and social and economic development”, says Amna Redzepagic, RCC’s Expert on Infrastructure.
Redzepagic also highlights the importance of the process of setting-up a Regional Training Centre for Road Safety, adding that the RCC jointly with the Association of Consulting Engineers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACE BiH) and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ministry of Communications and Transport has been working on creating conditions for its establishment.
“The RCC has committed itself to providing support in lunching a pilot project for the training of educators in road safety audits and inspections as a first step towards the establishment of the Centre.”
Justice and home affairs
Justice and home affairs sector made progress in several key areas: strategic coordination and complementarities; fight against organized crime and terrorism; anti-corruption; migration, asylum and refugees and cooperation in civil and administrative matters.
The RCC Secretariat initiated and elaborated the 2011–2013 Regional Strategic Document (RSD) and the Action Plan for its implementation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, which was endorsed by the SEECP Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs in March 2011.
“The RSD maps the priorities and actions in combating the most important challenges that crime poses to the region. The RCC Secretariat is coordinating the work of the Steering Group for the implementation of the Regional Strategic Document and has designed the Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism to measure the progress and the results of regional cooperation in justice and home affairs that should be functional as of January 2012,” says Virgil Ivan Cucu, Head of Justice and Home Affairs Unit at the RCC Secretariat.
Another significant regional achievement that came out from joint efforts of the RCC Secretariat and the Marshall European Centre for Security Studies “is the establishment of the Southeast Europe Regional Marshall Centre Alumni Association, which serves as a high-level regional forum for debating and discussing the cross-cutting issues between security, justice and home affairs, and contributes to a greater general understanding of the Euro-Atlantic accession and membership.”
Ivan Cucu reminds of the importance of first steps and partnerships for regional cooperation in administrative matters – with the European Association of Administrative Judges – and the established partnership with the International Association of Refugee Law Judges in the asylum and refugee protection field, initiated by the RCC Secretariat.
The adoption of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 has had a great impact for the activities developed within the security cooperation priority area of the RCC Secretariat.
”The efforts that the RCC Secretariat has been investing into developing a strategic and coordinated approach towards enhancing cooperation among the existing initiatives in the security sector, and towards creating new ones to fill in the identified gaps, have received the needed political weight to assume more responsibilities in streamlining and monitoring the regional activities“, explains Efrem Radev, Head of Security Cooperation Unit.
“We have made a particular breakthrough in developing important regional mechanism of cooperation among the chiefs of military intelligence (SEEMIC), with the full support of the EU Military Intelligence Directorate, and among the Heads of the SEE National Security Authorities, with support of the NATO Office of Security and the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU. The RCC has also initiated the Defence Policy Directors meeting in the SEECP format and the SEE Counter Intelligence Chiefs forum.”
In 2012, the Secretariat will continue with its coordination efforts, linking the existing regional initiatives in the security domain and complementing them when needed.
Building human capital and parliamentary cooperation
The RCC Secretariat is firmly devoted to helping build the human potential in South East Europe through promoting knowledge, and by introducing new scientific sectors and technological breakthroughs, based on reformed education systems.
“This year, we have launched a two-year project of preparing a Regional Strategy for Research and Innovation for the Western Balkans, together with the World Bank, the European Commission and Serbian SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office”, says Mladen Dragasevic, Head of the Building Human Capital and Parliamentary Cooperation Unit.
“The aim of the project, funded by EUR 1.5 million from the MB IPA programme, is to develop a strategy that will foster cooperation at regional level by interconnecting research institutes, training scientists and transferring knowledge across the region to increase its competitiveness.”
Establishment of the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society in Cetinje, Montenegro, and adoption of its major documents, including Rules of Procedure, Ljubljana Process II General Reference Framework, General Action Plan 2011-2014 and the Action Plan I 2011-2012 is another major achievement which is expected to significantly increase cultural cooperation in the region.
“At the same time, the RCC continued its active involvement in finalizing a 1 million EUR worth project fostering parliamentary cooperation in the Western Balkans and Turkey, through support to the Cetinje Parliamentary Forum”, says Gjergj Murra, Expert on Parliamentary Cooperation.
Following the establishment of the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe as a non-profit professional body of the public broadcasters in November 2010, with support of the RCC Secretariat, in 2011 the Secretariat continued to advocate for the development of free media and foster cooperation among public service broadcasters in the region.
“The RCC Secretariat facilitated the signing of a Protocol on Regional Cooperation in Education and Training among 12 members of the Association in September 2011, that will strengthen contribution of the public service media to the development of modern, democratic societies in South East Europe, through a set of activities enhancing the public service remit of the signatories”, says Dinka Zivalj, RCC Spokesperson/Head of Media Unit.
Zivalj adds that cooperation with the European Commission (EC) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) continued throughout 2011, culminating with a November seminar South East Europe 20 Years On: Transformation from State to Public Broadcasting, which outlined a future course of action in support of freedom, independence and sustainability of public service media in the region, also through a possible EC contribution of 1 million euro over the next two years.
“In 2012, the Secretariat intends to build upon the achievements made so far, working closely with the EC, the EBU, the Association and other partners in a focused, targeted and result-oriented manner, with a goal to foster development of free and professional media in South East Europe, given their role in shaping democratic, pluralistic and inclusive societies in the region.”
At the end of 2011, the RCC Secretariat has launched a self-assessment of the first year of implementation of its Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, as an important exercise for the future of the RCC after 2013.
“Evaluating the results achieved and measuring the extent of their compliance with the established objectives, the RCC Secretariat will produce its own self-evaluation mechanism with measurable indicators. In this respect, analysis of the past experience will show the way ahead”, concludes Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General and Head of the Expert Pool.
With the same determination, the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat will continue with its efforts to ensure steady regional cooperation and development in South East Europe in all identified priority areas in the following year.
Guided by principles of all-inclusiveness and regional ownership, and under the political guidance of South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), the RCC has been working on numerous fronts:
- Represented the region in different international and regional fora relevant for development of regional cooperation in general and in priority areas specifically. Great number of regional events were organized or co-organized by the RCC Secretariat. According to a two-month sample of events for September-October 2011, close to ¼ of the 57 identified regional events in that period were organized by the RCC Secretariat.
- Moreover, consultations have been held with high-level representatives of the SEECP, the Adriatic-Ionic Initiative (AII), the Central European Initiative (CEI), and high-level officials from the European Union (EU) member countries, U.S. Department of State, the World Bank, etc.
- Supported the SEECP in fulfilling its tasks contributing to different activities in the SEECP framework, in particular in preparing a number of sectoral meetings organized or to be organized by the SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office and related to the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013.
- Monitored and streamlined regional activities, informing different regional initiatives and task forces in a targeted way on possibilities to be involved in the activities performed by the RCC Secretariat or any other Regional Initiatives and Task Forces (RI&TF). Periodical stock taking (Survey of RI&TFs, March 2011) of regional activities of different stakeholders has been done, including related recommendations. In a number of cases, the RCC Secretariat jointly planed and performed different activities related to the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 with individual RI&TFs.
- The RCC Secretariat has had a managing, monitoring and/or steering role in different bodies of other regional initiatives (The South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons/SEESAC, Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Initiative/DPPI, Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative/RAI, Centre for eGovernance Development/CeGD, Gender Task Force/GTF, South East European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning/SEECEL, Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe/ERI SEE, Electronic South Eastern Europe/eSEE, etc.). Besides this type of involvement, it has had regular bilateral meetings and consultations with a number of RI&TFs which are well established, or emerging partners of the RCC Secretariat, such as newly established regional networks (SEE Public Private Partnership Network, Regional Network of Investment Promotion Agencies, etc.). Institutionalization of cooperation and coordination has often been provided through specified Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs).
- Close cooperation and coordination has been established with a number of EU supported regional organizations (Central European Free Trade Agreement/CEFTA, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/OECD Investment Compact, South East Europe Transport Observatory/SEETO, Regional School of Public Administration/RESPA, Sava Commission, etc.), as well as with other regional stakeholders such as the newly established regional networks (SEE Public Private Partnership Network, Regional Network of Investment Promotion Agencies, etc.), private companies and associations.
- Exerted strategic leadership in regional cooperation through development of regional platforms and/or strategies in all priority areas, e.g. the 2011-2013 Regional Strategic Document (RSD) and the Action Plan for its implementation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, or Regional Strategy for Research and Innovation for the Western Balkans, and others.
- Provided a regional perspective in donor assistance through improved communication on regional cooperation activities in the triangle RCC Secretariat and other regional initiatives, National Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance Coordinator’s (NIPAC) offices and European Commission’s Directorate General (DG) Enlargement. The RCC Secretariat has also taken part in the Western Balkans Investment Framework Steering Committee Meetings, as well as International Financial Institutions (IFI) Advisory Group meetings. Consultations were held with other donors interested in regional projects (Austrian Development Agency /ADA, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency/SIDA, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung/FES, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit/GIZ, United Nations Development Programme/UNDP, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe/OSCE, World Bank, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation/SDC, Balkan Trust for Democracy/BTD, etc.). The RCC presents regional projects according to its Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 and promotes other RI&TFs projects. Furthermore, the RCC Secretariat has established or intensified contacts with other DGs in the European Commission (DG REGIO, DG MOVE, DG Education and Culture, DG International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, etc).
- Supported increased involvement of civil society in regional activities. It helped launch the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe, the Network of National Councils of the European Movement in SEE, the Eco-Social Economy Network South and East Europe/ESENSEE ) and consolidated cooperation with civil society organisations (CSO) networks. A permanent dialogue has been going on with different CSO stakeholders from the region such as Technical Assistance for Civil Society Organisations (TACSO) team, the International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT), the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE), etc, discussing issues and modes of cooperation and launching common activities. The dialogue further widened with the think-tanks from the region and beyond as well as with university networks. The RCC was represented at different events relevant for development of regional cooperation – from think-tank and academic conferences to the European Commission’s dialogue with civil society in the region.
Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General