Newsletter 7/2010 - Our South East Europe

Through parliamentary cooperation to mutual trust and tolerance

Parliaments in every country represent the highest expression of democratic will of its citizens. As key legislators, parliaments have a crucial role in promoting and implementing necessary reforms aimed at improvement of the overall situation in a country to the benefit of all.

Efficient and functioning parliaments that operate in a transparent manner are prerequisites for development of a country. They are responsible for political stability of a country but also for its economic prosperity, social cohesion and most of all for (re)building of trust in democratic institutions.

Parliaments in South East Europe (SEE) have an even more challenging role given the recent turbulent past filled with numerous conflicts and confrontations. Therefore, they are responsible for promoting tolerance, understanding and good neighbourly relations. This common aim for all SEE countries is best achieved through continuous dialogue, exchange of experiences, and by identifying common goals, platforms and projects.  

The South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) is a broad forum for diplomatic and political dialogue in SEE. The participating states ( Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey) have identified parliamentary cooperation as one of the key priorities for cooperation. As a result, the Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in SEE was established in 2008, with a seat in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Mariana Vitanova, the Head of the Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in SEE (RSPC SEE) explains that the Memorandum of Understanding on Inter-parliamentary Cooperation in South East Europe, signed in April 2008 in Sofia, provides the legal framework for the activities and initiatives of the SEECP Parliamentary Dimension. The Memorandum places inter-parliamentary interaction in the context of a structured dialogue of all SEE institutions and their international partners.

“The institutional strengthening and capacity building of the SEE parliaments lead to a new impetus to further develop the mechanisms and formats of regional parliamentary cooperation.”

Vitanova further adds that the assessment of the needs of SEECP parliaments in joint initiatives for exchange of legislative experience and best practices showed the importance of the interparliamentary cooperation in many key areas such as transport and infrastructure, regional policy, security and public order, legal affairs, agriculture and other.

“This implies strengthening of ties between the parliamentary committees and creation of sustainable forms of interaction and partnership in order to facilitate the national parliaments in the implementation of their legislative agenda aimed at further stability and economic development of the region.” 

According to Miodrag Vukovic, Member of Parliament of Montenegro and Chair of Committee for International Relations and European integration, parliamentary cooperation is an inevitable form of communication that leads us to a common goal – calming of the region, establishment of dialogue and regaining trust and tolerance between parties that were confronted until recently. 

“Among all social subjects, the Parliaments have the greatest legitimacy since they are elected by people. Therefore, their mutual communication will also provoke a dialogue of the people they represent.”

Vukovic is of the opinion that previously dominant ways of communication should be changed and everyone should go beyond their boarders and their political egocentricity.

“Room for communication of people about the recent unfortunate events should be opened. Cohabitation of good ideas in one country is a prerequisite for good parliamentary cohabitation in the region.”

Initiation of regional cooperation projects based on specific needs and priority areas of the region is coordinated by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Regional Secretariat for Parliamentary Cooperation in South East Europe (RSPC).

Vitanova stresses that the establishment of the RCC and the RSPC marks a new stage in affirming the regional ownership principle as the basis of political dialogue and interaction in South East Europe in light of the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of the region.

“In the new political reality in SEE, the parliaments in their overarching role should provide a broad platform for support of common regional cooperation priorities and the special attention should be devoted to the interaction between governmental and parliamentary dimensions of the SEECP.”

The Regional Cooperation Council focuses on two dimensions of parliamentary cooperation in South East Europe: the SEECP and the Western Balkans cooperation, in line with the activities envisaged under the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, says Mimika Loshi, Expert on Parliamentary Cooperation at the RCC Secretariat.

“Parliamentary cooperation in SEE has a crucial role both in contributing to good neighbourly relations and in strengthening legislative and political cooperation towards joining the EU.”

When talking about the ownership and future of the parliamentary cooperation in the region, Vukovic highlights the need for further support of the RCC.

“Do continue to assist the process, because you help by promoting good ideas. The region is so ill that, unfortunately, in the years to come, it will need an entire ’medical team’ with good diagnoses and therapies.”


Parliamentary cooperation is a priority work area of the Regional Cooperation Council (Photo by National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia)

Parliamentary cooperation is a priority work area of the Regional Cooperation Council (Photo by National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia)