Newsletter 11/2011 - Our South East Europe

ARTICLE by Jelica Minic, Deputy RCC Secretary General/Head of Expert Pool, and Sanjin Arifagic, Head of Economic and Social Development Unit, RCC Secretariat

RCC conference brings together key players to discuss aligning Western Balkans programmes with Europe 2020

A regional coordination conference Western Balkans and Europe 2020 – Towards Convergence and Growth, convened to explore the possibilities of further alignment of the region to Europe 2020 policy objectives and principles, was organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat in Brussels, on 30-31 March 2011.

The meeting gathered over 100 representatives of regional organizations and structures, national authorities from South East Europe, representatives of international financial institutions, international donor agencies and the officials of European Union (EU) institutions.

Besides efforts to identify possibilities of closer linkages between the reform efforts in the region and Europe 2020 strategy, the conference aimed to exchange information between the regional initiatives on their current and planned activities and possible linkages to the Europe 2020 strategic framework; to inform the donor community of the ongoing efforts at the regional level; and to identify support and commitment to mapping out the path for Europe 2020 implementation at the regional level.

The introduction of a new European strategy for jobs and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth – Europe 2020 – has presented new opportunities for the enlargement countries. The strategy confirmed five EU headline targets which will constitute shared objectives guiding the action of EU Member States and the Union as regards promoting employment; improving the conditions for innovation, research and development; meeting climate change and energy objectives; improving education levels and promoting social inclusion.

Preparations of the Western Balkans states for future membership suggest that Europe 2020 policy goals and implementation methods are equally relevant to enlargement countries. The European Commission recognized this aspect of the strategy and “welcomed the intention of many enlargement countries to reflect the Europe 2020 strategy in their national reform priorities”[1]. The Commission called upon the RCC to “set up platforms for dialogue and peer review in […] areas in line with Europe 2020 priorities”[2]. It was also indicated that the IPA programming process will take into account the priorities of Europe 2020 strategy.

A number of regional initiatives and task forces already work along priorities of Europe 2020. Associating these regional structures further with Europe 2020 (both in substance and in governance) could lead to increased effectiveness of the groups and provide better insight at the level of development of polices in the countries and in the region. Strengthened governance mechanisms could secure enhanced translation of regionally-agreed reforms to the national level, improve programming of IPA towards Europe 2020 goals, and, finally, better prepare countries for obligations of membership.

Western Balkans and Europe 2020 – Towards Convergence and Growth conference was envisaged as a platform for initiating a dialogue with leaders of regional structures to explore the readiness and capacity to structure their working arrangements closer to the Europe 2020 policy objectives and governance principles.

The participants encouraged the RCC to assist in the process of associating the current regional activities with Europe 2020 priorities and structures, where such alignment is possible. RCC is expected to engage directly with regional initiatives by establishing a platform for action as well as providing support in better streamlining of regional activities and increasing regional ownership. RCC should develop a roadmap for further coordination between regional initiatives, national administrations, international financial institutions, European Union institutions, and other donors.

The conference recommended adapting Europe 2020 targets to regional realities in cooperation with national administrations. A particular importance should be given to governance mechanisms employed by regional groups, enabling peer reviews, benchmarking, establishment of indicators, exchange of best practice, and monitoring and reporting on progress made.

Furthermore, European Commission is expected to help deepen policy dialogue in specific areas, support participation of the enlargement countries in Europe-wide initiatives in the implementation of the strategy and provide for specific instruments that could facilitate the implementation of Europe 2020 in the region.

Finally, the participants concluded that Europe 2020 does not replace the accession process; rather it complements it by providing an opportunity for better functional and sectoral integration of candidate and potential candidate countries into the European structures, thus supporting the ultimate institutional integration.

During the conference, the RCC Secretariat present preliminary findings of its survey of regional initiatives and task forces operating within, and directed towards, the countries of South East Europe, conducted this year. The findings suggested a need for better networking, increased awareness of the work of the initiatives, better streamlining of their activities and stronger involvement of civil society in the work of the RCC and other organizations. 30 initiatives contributed to the survey on general and institutional aspects, funding, projects and actions, as well as coordination activities needed to make them more effective.

The meeting brought together representatives of over 30 regional initiatives and task forces, 15 leading international financial institutions and bilateral donors, as well as representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament.

More information on the event is available at the RCC website (directly at

[1] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2010-2011, 9 November 2010.

[2] Ibid.


RCC-organized regional coordination conference Western Balkans and Europe 2020 – Towards Convergence and Growth explored possibilities of  further alignment of the region to Europe 2020 policy objectives and principles (Photo: RCC/Dinka Zivalj)

RCC-organized regional coordination conference Western Balkans and Europe 2020 – Towards Convergence and Growth explored possibilities of further alignment of the region to Europe 2020 policy objectives and principles (Photo: RCC/Dinka Zivalj)