Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Series
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Regional cooperation as a boost to the EU Integration process

10.01.2019
Meeting, the Network of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, established within GIZ Open Region Fund for Promotion of EU Integration (Photo: GIZ/Šejla Mujačić)

 

Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Promotion of EU Integration is a special instrument implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, as a part of the German development cooperation. It was established in 2013 and will last until the end of 2020.It supports the responsible authorities with regards to national steering of the EU accession process through regional exchange. Since its establishment the project coordinates, advices and supports three regional networks, – Network of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation platform of EU integration authorities and Network of national IPA structures. Each network selects its relevant intervention fields.

As of 2018 the project has an additional component that aims at increasing the visibility of the Berlin Process.

Due to its special setup the project has the possibility to address and support issues that are of mutual interest in at least three of the six Western Balkan countries. Therefore, the flexibility to adapt to the needs and current challenges the countries are facing with respect to the EU accession process is ensured.

Already before the additional component focusing on the promotion the Berlin Process was started, the project had supported the Berlin Process immediately after its launch in 2014, mainly through the Networks of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) – exchange between of the EU Departments within the MFA’s. The first measure consisted of a study visit for senior diplomats which served as a preparatory meeting for the Vienna Western Balkan Conference in 2015.

Since then, one of the focuses within the MFA Network was to establish trust between the Western Balkan countries so they may exchange amongst themselves with regards to topics of the annual summits and to create strong linkages between the countries of the region and the host countries of the Berlin Process.

With time, the focus has been widened due to the development of the Berlin Process and its achievements. A stronger involvement of the civil society and youth has become part of the process and the Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Promotion of EU Integration has, due to its setup, been able to involve them in its activities. The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), established as one of the key results of the Berlin Process in the framework of social cooperation, has become one of the main stakeholders in the respective component of the project. The project delivers its support towards RYCO through a needs-based approach and regular exchange. One of the main success stories was the merger of the Regional Youth Forum with the previously established Youth Forum by European Movement in Novi Sad where in cooperation with RYCO, recommendations for the Berlin Process Summit in London in 2018 were formulated. This Forum has been recognised and supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an official side event to the Summit. This good practice will continue to receive support of the Open Regional Fund SEE in the next year as a preparatory event for the WB Summit in Poznan.

The regional conference “New Dynamics of Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) in the Western Balkans” marked another highlight of the German development cooperation in this context. It was organised as a follow up to the VET conference held in Vienna in May 2016. The participants of the regional conference and relevant Ministries adopted recommendations regarding technical and vocational education. This communique has been fed into the Summit in London.

The cooperation with civil society did not only concern the support for preparatory meetings before the Summit but also by extending initiatives organized within the EU to the Western Balkan countries. Here, the project expanded the already existing Reflection Forum Series in cooperation with local and international partners to involve a greater public in reflecting different aspects of the Berlin Process and thereby increase its visibility.

In cooperation with different stakeholders the project also supported the Digital Summit in Skopje and will continue its support in organizing the Digital Summit in Belgrade in 2019.

In preparation for the upcoming Summit in Poznan, along with supporting regular exchanges of the stakeholders involved in the Berlin Process, the project will publish a brochure entitled “Berlin Process in a Nutshell”. This publication describes the overall process in a comprehensive way. Additionally, a rather unconventional and innovative approach with artists from Western Balkans will be initiated to boost the visibility of the Berlin Process and the overall goal of all the initiative, namely the EU Integration of the Western Balkans.