Newsletter 23/2012 - Our South East Europe

A YEAR OF TANGIBLE PROGRESS, by Gjergj Murra, Expert in Parliamentary Cooperation, RCC Secretariat

The year 2012 has witnessed a good progress in parliamentary cooperation in South East Europe (SEE). In this area, regional cooperation has a high level of ownership and regional responsibility, confirmed by the progress achieved and the steps forward made towards institutionalization of the parliamentary cooperation both in SEE and Western Balkans.

The current discussions focused on South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Parliamentary Dimension institutionalization regarding establishment of the SEE Parliamentary Assembly are a clear indication of the new approach in the region and we are confident that they will provide substantial contribution in fostering systematic cooperation among the parliaments.

The regional parliamentary cooperation is contributing to reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. It has also shown to be useful to the countries’ common efforts for harmonisation and alignment of legislation with the European Union (EU) acquis as well as in strengthening political support towards joining the EU.  

Preparations for membership for national parliaments represent a particular challenge, as an extensive batch of EU legislation has to be transposed into national legislation in a short period of time. The need for parliamentary exchanges with other partners in the region in terms of promoting and sharing best practices and experiences has become an important aspect of regional cooperation. Common objectives include: providing possibilities for parliaments to learn from each other, from the European Parliament and from EU Member States; providing quick response/support to questions concerning the process and legal content on European integration related issues, and broadening regional good practices in terms of citizen/Parliament coordination and consultation.

The RCC Secretariat, guided by the two main priorities identified in its Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, has continued to be actively involved in promoting Parliamentary Cooperation both in South East Europe and Western Balkans formats/frameworks.

The RCC Secretariat is actively involved in assisting the SEECP in developing the parliamentary dimension of its work, supporting the implementation of the Final Declaration of the 8th Conference of the SEECP Speakers of Parliaments, adopted in Antalya, Turkey, in June 2010. In this context, the RCC Secretariat has participated in all meetings of the SEECP Parliamentary Dimension Working Group. The discussions of the SEECP Parliamentary Dimension (PD) are focused on two potential models of SEECP PD institutionalization: Establishment of the SEE Parliamentary Assembly or establishment of the SEECP Parliamentary Conference.

On the Western Balkans format, the RCC Secretariat is carefully pursuing the final steps in developing the project: “Parliamentary Cooperation in the Western Balkans and Turkey - Support to the Cetinje Parliamentary Forum”. The project is to strengthen the role and effectiveness of parliaments in the EU integration process and access to public documents. It has been finalized and intense consultations are held with Directorate General (DG) Enlargement representatives regarding detailed description of the activities, optimal model for project contracting and respective budgeting. The project is worth EUR 1 million and its implementation should start in the next few months.

The RCC Secretariat was actively involved in organizing and participated in the Sixth Conference of the European Integration Parliamentary Committees of States participating to the Stabilisation and Association Process (COSAP). The conference discussed the role of parliaments in driving forward the EU reform agenda and the key role of European Integration Committees in this process, the necessity to strengthen institutions, the rule of law and the priority to deal with justice and legal reforms. EU integration and the need to focus on standards and approximation of legislation, the consolidation of COSAP-network in accordance with its Rules of Procedures, were also among the issues emphasized during the event. The meeting was a positive development for restarting the parliamentary cooperation under this format and the next meeting is scheduled for the beginning of 2013 in Sarajevo. 

In the meantime, the RCC Secretariat has continued cooperating with the European Parliament in jointly preparing and organizing events in the region. The Regional Parliamentary Seminar: “Environmental challenges and opportunities – the way forward” was organized jointly by the RCC Secretariat and the European Parliament (EP). The event, attended by members of parliaments and parliamentary staff from the Western Balkans (WB), as well as four members of the EP, contributed to raising awareness on environmental issues and strengthening institutional capacity of national parliaments in the Western Balkans in the environmental sector. Follow-up to this event was discussed at the seminar organized in Brussels by the European Parliament with the parliamentarian staff from Western Balkan countries, in the framework of the Support Programme for WB parliaments in 2012-2013.

The RCC Secretary General Hido Biscevic, upon invitation from the European Parliament Working Group on Western Balkans, briefed its members on the implementation of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, especially in the area of parliamentary cooperation. This was the third RCC briefing to the EP’s WB Working Group.

The parliamentary cooperation in SEE needs to be streamlined, directed towards strengthening capacities of the main legislative bodies in fulfilling their various important roles in state governing systems. In the near future, our joint efforts with the regional stakeholders and international partners will be concentrated on developing more realistic and result oriented approaches among main legislative bodies of the countries.

Gjergj Murra joined the RCC Secretariat in October 2011 as the Expert on Parliamentary Cooperation. Murra had previously worked at the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for more than ten years, mostly on multilateral diplomacy and on SEE regional cooperation as the Director of Regional Initiatives. He was the Director of the Stability Pact Secretariat for Albania from 2000 to 2002. Murra has had a long academic career as a professor of social-psychology and sociology at the Tirana University and other high educational institutions, including the Diplomatic Academy of the MFA Albania. He holds a PhD degree in social-psychology.


Gjergj Murra, Expert in Parliamentary Cooperation, RCC Secretariat (Photo: RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)

Gjergj Murra, Expert in Parliamentary Cooperation, RCC Secretariat (Photo: RCC/Selma Ahatovic-Lihic)