Western Balkans and Europe 2020 – Supporting Convergence and Growth

Regional Coordination Conference
30-31 March 2011

During 2010, the European Union launched its new strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth – “Europe 2020”. Five overarching objectives guide EU activities in this endeavour, namely promoting employment, improving the conditions for innovation and Research and Development (R&D), meeting climate change and energy challenges, improving education levels and promoting social inclusion.

The goals of Europe 2020 are equally valid for the Western Balkans countries, particularly in view of their preparations for future EU membership. This convergence with EU strategy is recognised by the European Commission who has actively encouraged the region to adopt Europe 2020 inspired goals to guide their future socio-economic development. Different Community Programmes have been opened up for Western Balkan states making possible to work alongside EU Member States on activities designed to facilitate achievement of Europe 2020 objectives.

Countries can (and some have already started to) emulate the strategy individually. Nevertheless, there is a strong need for a regional dimension in setting the targets and creating implementation mechanisms which would greatly facilitate the process. It would also allow the region to benchmark progress in the relevant areas. The value of such a regional approach is emphasised in the European Commission’s Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2010-2011 report that called upon Western Balkans countries to pursue initiatives in regional groups and develop appropriate targets which respond to their societal and economic realities.

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) has been charged with facilitating the development of such a regional approach and the Regional Coordination Conference on 30-31 March 2011 represents an important contribution to this effort.

The Conference will provide regional initiatives with an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of their activities in contributing to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the region. The interactive format will allow them to discuss, with all major partners of the region, including the European Commission, bilateral and multilateral donors and international financial institutions, some of the main challenges that must be addressed to achieve these goals.

A number of regional initiatives supported by the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat already work along priorities of Europe 2020 and associating them further with this framework (in substance and in governance) could have a valuable impact. Increased effectiveness of the groups, better insight at the level of policy development, enhanced translation of regionally-agreed reforms to the national level, improved programming of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) towards Europe 2020 goals are all possible outcomes of such an effort.

The RCC has already started a reflection on Europe 2020 and the role of the Western Balkans in early 2010. The Secretariat has initiated a discussion on the main challenges of reorienting policies away from crisis management towards the introduction of longer-term reforms that promote growth and employment and ensure the sustainability of public finances. Regional Coordination Conference is a continuation of RCC’s efforts, and a step forward in framing regional activities in a way most helpful to Western Balkans countries as they prepare for the obligations of future EU membership.

Agenda of the event is available HERE.

Media advisory is available HERE, and the Press Release HERE

Address by the RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, at the conference is available HERE.

Preliminary summary findings of a survey of regional initiatives and task forces in South East Europe are available HERE

The conference document, containing some issues for consideration, is available HERE.

Interviews and articles featuring the conference:


The views expressed in the presentations below belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Regional Cooperation Council and its Secretariat. The RCC Secretariat is not responsible for content of presentations.

Introductory: Europe 2020 and the role of the RCC Secretariat

  • Jelica Minić, Deputy Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat

Keynote Address: Does the Western Balkans need a new growth model?

  • Peter Sanfey, Lead Economist, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Bernard Snoy, Senior Expert, International Financial Institutions (IFI) Coordination Office

Panel 1: Smart growth – unleashing competitiveness in the Western Balkans

  • Renata Vitez, Director, Central Europe Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) Secretariat
  • Vesna Arsić, Co-Chair, South East Europe Investment Committee
  • Sandra Rončević, Project Manager, Southeast Europe Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning
  • Diana Šimić, Chairperson, Electronic South Eastern Europe (e-SEE) Initiative
  • Remus Pricopie, Chair, RCC Task Force on Building Human Capital

Panel 2: Infrastructure and sustainable growth

Panel 3: Governance for growth

  • Blerta Selenica, Chair of the Governing Board, Regional School of Public Administration
  • Blaž Golob, Director, Centre for eGovernance Development
  • Vesna Ratković, Chairperson, Regional Anti-corruption initiative
  • Kelmend Zajazi, Executive Director, Secretariat of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of Southeast Europe
Regional Programmes: Complementing and adding value to national efforts
  • Yngve Engström, Head of Unit, Regional Programmes, Directorate General for Enlargement, European Commission
  • Anthony O’Sullivan, Head, Private Sector Development Division, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • Mary O’Mahony, IFI Coordination Office

Concluding remarks

  • Jelica Minić, Deputy Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat