On July 21st, 2016, at the EU Info Center Skopje, Macedonia, the Embassy of Poland in Macedonia organized an informative session about funding opportunities for regional cooperation projects in the Western Balkans. The aim of the session was to pinpoint to the reforms that are to be introduced within the International Visegrad Fund, as well as to introduce the newly established Western Balkans Fund.
Ms. Beata Jaczewska, Executive Director of the International Visegrad Fund highlighted that the International Visegrad Fund is having discussions over introducing reforms that will further simplify the application process but also a new impact change methodology. She mentioned that, by far, the International Visegrad Fund has supported 36 projects coming from CSOs from the Balkans, as well as 143 young persons through the International Visegrad Fund Scholarship program.
Mr. Gjergj Murra, Executive Director – Designate of the newly established Western Balkans Fund stated that the Western Balkans Fund has been established by the governments of the Western Balkans countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and it is the first ever initiative to create a fund that aims to support Western Balkans regional projects. Its structure includes the Council of Foreign Ministers as the highest decision-making body and the Council of Senior Officials, the Executive Director as the executive body and the Secretariat, seated in Tirana, as the administrative body. The aim of the Western Balkans Fund is to promote cooperation and strengthening the relations between the members states, common values among citizens, civil society and institutions in the region, and strengthen cooperation and people to people contacts. Mr. Murra explained that the latter goal is to be achieved by supporting common projects and by bringing people to share mutual experiences and be aware of the values, traditions and culture of their respective countries. More so, highlighted that the Western Balkans Fund will finance small and medium projects in one of the key areas: education, environmental protection, human rights, culture, cross-border exchanges and youth cooperation with every project requiring participation from at least three of the western Balkans countries. The budget is still to be created, nonetheless, it will include contributions from member countries in equal quotas, as well as funds received from donor countries, organizations or other sources. Finally, the estimations are that the Western Balkans Fund is to become fully operational during 2017. In addition, all CSOs interested to find out more about the Western Balkans Fund are encouraged to contact them through the following e-mail address: email@example.com.