Meeting of Balkan Regional Initiatives – Improved Networking, Synergy and Cooperation with Civil Society Needed

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On 30th and 31st of March, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) organized a coordination conference on the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy in Brussels The meeting brought together representatives of over 30 regional initiatives (RIs) and task forces, 15 leading international financial institutions and bilateral donors, as well as representatives of the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament. Among the civil society representatives, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network and the Igman Initiative attended the meeting. Over 100 participants of regional initiatives and international donors concluded that the RCC is the institution most apt to help align regional programmes with goals of the EUs’ Europe 2020 strategy.

The two-day conference was designed to complement the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, in view of the Western Balkan countries’ preparations for EU membership. The participants debated new growth model for the region, methods to unleash competitiveness, support infrastructure development and sustainable growth, as well as ways to complement and add value to national efforts through regional programmes. This was also an opportunity for the RCC Secretariat to 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 (BCSDN also contributed in this survey). The findings suggest 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 Survey was divided into 4 parts. Here is a short overview on the key findings:

1. Institutional Outline of Cooperation in SEE

The results show that the 30 organizations surveyed have a total staff of 438, with 339 permanent and 99 temporary employees. Participating Networks reported on average 3 members of staff, although it is worth noting here that these staff members are allocated to the Networks by other institutions that employ them.

2. Funding

During 2010, the 27 regional initiatives that responded to the funding section of the questionnaire have mobilized more than EUR 15.9 million in funding. The sources of this funding can be grouped in four broad categories: SEE governments; funding by bi-lateral and multilateral donor agencies and grants by governments outside of the SEE region; EC and the private sector. The EC remains the single largest contributor to regional efforts in Southeast Europe, sourcing over 30% of all funds dedicated to RIs either directly through regional programmes, or through national IPA contributions. Other individual donors and governments outside of the region aggregately contribute almost half of the RI funding, with the private sector directly financing less than 1% of the overall budgets. The contribution of the governments in the region, which stood at 20% in 2010, signals an ever greater commitment to regional cooperation and indicates an increase of regional ownership in RIs.

3. Regional Cooperation

The section on regional coordination was dedicated mostly to two main areas – cooperation with RCC and coordination between the RIs themselves. The expectations on this level consist of better networking and information exchange, increased awareness, better streamlining of existing RIs and involvement of regional civil society initiatives and networks.

4. Overview of activities

As evident from the information supplied, most of the RIs already work along the priorities of the Europe 2020 Strategy, as the main European framework for growth.

More information on the event as well as all the presenatations and interviews are available here.

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