EU official: PASOS network a partner in union’s integration efforts

PASOS, 24.10.2013.

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PASOS and other networks are components in the European Union’s integration efforts in the Western Balkans and Turkey, according to an EU official who spoke at the association’s annual international conference.

“We are now here because PASOS is one of our framework partnership agreements,” said Nicola Bertolini of the European Commission’s Directorate-General of Enlargement, addressing the audience at “Wider and Closer,” a PASOS think tanks/policymakers conference held in Brussels October 17.

“PASOS is now delivering, we hope, the results that are expected. So it will be a four-year engagement from our side and PASOS and the organizations belonging to PASOS, in order to build more actions in this specific sector, which is open governance, which is a very, very important … sector.”

Bertolini, who heads the directorate’s Regional Co-operation and Programmes, Western Balkans and Turkey, made his remarks during a panel discussion that opened the day-long conference. He was referring to “Advocacy for Open Government,” an EU-funded PASOS project to encourage governments in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia to become more transparent.

“Networks, lobbying, sharing of experience, sharing of knowledge, research, have at the basis for any development of civil society,” he said. “And PASOS is now putting forward some of this. We hope that all the networks could be supported. Unfortunately, with our funding, we supported only 10 percent of the applications we received. So PASOS should be aware that its one of the best and should deliver as one of the best.

“We are aiming to have a partnership. When you are partners, you are not donor-grantee, you are not contracting authority-contractor — you are partners.”

Bertolini was joined on the panel by Patricia Flor, EU Special Representative for Central Asia, who spoke on the status of civil society in Central Asia.

In addition, two experts from PASOS-affiliated think tanks presented reports.

Gjergji Vurmo, Program Director at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in Albania, presented Civil Society and EU accession – Moving beyond the “box-ticking” practice. Vurmo said that the EU must do a better job of engaging civil society actors in the Western Balkans as it works on accession programs in the region.

“Civil society involvement is still considered a capacity challenge, rather than a democracy standard,” he said.

Iveta Kažoka, Senior Policy Analyst, Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS in Latvia, presented Baseline study on EU New Member States’ Level of Integration and Engagement in EU Decision-Making. She said that the study, which was commissioned as part of the PASOS Project “Enlargement and Citizenship: Looking to the Future,” could be useful to countries in the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership and Central Asia that seek greater engagement with the European Union.

“My main point today would be that those regions, those countries, EU member states as well, have a lot to learn from the experience of those countries that as recently as 10 years ago were not part of the European Union but right now have already had some maybe six years, some eight or nine years, to integrate with the structures of the European Union,” she said. “That experience has been quite inspiring.”