SUPPORT TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT’S INVOLVEMENT IN EU ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMES INTERREG INITIATIVES IN ALBANIA, CROATIA AND MACEDONIA
The new contractual relationship with the European Union as outlined with the SAA and the Interim Agreement (in force since 1st December 2006) notes a new phase in Albania’s European integration process. The country must now demonstrate that is capable to adequately implement the obligations assumed with the SAA and that its economy can gradually face the challenges of an open and competitive economy. It is therefore very important that Albania develops the necessary infrastructure to implement the reforms put forward by the Stabilization and Association Process which will facilitate its efforts addressing the new challenges of the new contractual relation with the Union. Such endeavours will be granted significant financial and technical assistance by the European Union through the new Instrument for Pre-accession Aid (IPA) as well as through other community programmes which include Albania as a target area – the ongoing CARDS programme, INTERREG, TEMPUS, EIDHR etc.
In this context sound administrative capacities to attract, absorb and process the assistance being offered by both, EU and non-EU donors, constitute an essential element of Albania’s strategy to implement the SAA obligations. Nevertheless, it is also very important that such sound administrative capacities be present not only at the central level governmental structures, but within local government bodies as well. The current EU assistance for Albania under CARDS (from 2007 and on, under IPA) is familiarizing the Albanian public administration with EC funding rules and procedures which at a later stage as a candidate or member country – will require better capacities to absorb EU funds. Nevertheless, it seems that the capacity building efforts have mainly focused on the Albanian public administration at central level while less action has been visible at the local level, despite the decent progress of the decentralization process.
Albanian local government authorities lack not only the necessary capacities to address the local socio-economic development challenges but also an integrated framework of actions which will assist them to address such challenges through the development and consolidation of their administrative capacities. This may well be also one of the reasons explaining the low level of involvement of Albanian border (and other) regions local authorities in joint cross border projects financially supported by EU programmes, such as the INTERREG Programme. This programme constitutes an excellent opportunity for local authorities in Albania to get acquainted with EU funding programmes which are expected to play an important role particularly in terms of regional development and cohesion. While this programme is certainly a helpful instrument for local government authorities to better address local concerns through joint actions with their counterparts in the EU adjacent regions, such an experience will simultaneously assist them to cope with EU structural/cohesion funds, once available to Albania (member country status required).
The decentralization experience in Albania has proved in several occasions that local government units have failed to cope with the powers competencies and responsibilities that the decentralization reform has granted them with. Accordingly, there is an immediate need for capacity building actions in order to deal successfully with the new management challenges deriving from the decentralisation process. It is therefore extremely important to assist local governments in border areas to improve their performance while dealing with donors’ programmes (such as EU’s INTERREG) not only for the sake of greater involvement in INTERREG programme and other future EU programmes (Cohesion and Structural funds), but to ensure that local government bodies can respond to their responsibilities for the local socio-economic development.
Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) in cooperation with its partners CEPOR SMEs Policy Centre in Croatia and the Centre for Research and Policy Making in Macedonia will approach this concern though a joint project which will aim at strengthening the capacities of Albanian local authorities in border regions to attract and absorb EU originating support (INTERREG) through closer cooperation and consultation with the Croatian and Macedonian experiences.
The Macedonian and Croatian experience is particularly important for this project not only because both countries can make use of the same INTERREG components as Albania (Croatia with Italy and Macedonia with Greece) but also in respect of their progress in the EU integration process as candidate countries. Furthermore, the project may well serve as a tool to establish and strengthen the cooperation links between Albanian local authorities and their counterparts in Croatia and Macedonia which may well result with joint projects and other initiatives. In this context, AIIS believes that the expertise and assistance of the CEPOR SMEs Police Centre (Croatia) and the Centre for Research and Policy Making (Macedonia) will significantly contribute to the attainment of our goal and objectives.
FINE-TUNING STRATEGIC PLANS WITH THE BUDGET
(STRATEGIC PLANNING TRAINING)
CRPM Training in Strategic Planning
To prepare the civil service for the challenge of EU accession, the Centre for Research and Policy Making, together with NORMAK and the Government of Macedonia, is organizing capacity building training in policy development. The general objective of the project is:
To build the capacities of the policy development staff in the Government of Macedonia
The specific objectives of the project are:
Development of an innovative capacity building training in policy development in accordance with the Policy Development Handbook;
Delivery of two days training seminar in policy development.
The main beneficiary of this exercise is the Policy development department within the General Secretariat of the Government of Macedonia and policy development staff in line Ministries. The training was designed in accordance with the Policy Development Handbook (Прирачник за креирање политики, Генерален Секретаријат на Владата на Република Македонија, Јануари 2007) and the Guidelines to Memorandum. The design will be developed in consultation with the Policy Development Department of the General Secretariat of the Government of Macedonia in order to incorporate Macedonia- relevant specificities.
TRAINING ON IMPROVING THE PROCESS OF POLICY-MAKING IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
Using practical and innovative methods the Center for Research and Policy Making will continue its capacity building training in analysis and policy making for the staff of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia. Case studies will be used to bring the theory of policy making closer to the every day responsibilities of the policy makers. Ten representatives of all Ministries will be invited to attend the training session. For the purposes of these trainings, Ministries will be grouped in the following order:
1. Ministry of Education
Ministry of Culture
2. Ministry of Economy
Ministry of Finance
3. Ministry of Transport
Ministry of Agriculture
4. Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Health
5. Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Interior
6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Defence
7. Ministry of Local Self-Government
Ministry of Labour and Social Policy
TRANSPARENT BUDGETING IN THE UNITS OF LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT: THE TRAINING COMPONENT
Following the successful implementation of the first phase of the Macedonian Budget Project and the publication of the Guide to Budgets, the Center for Research and Policy Making in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung implements the second phase of this project: training local government officials and civil society leaders in “Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis in the Budgetary process.” The aim is also to have comprehensive, reliable, and useful budget information available for interested citizens. Another key issue is whether the legislature and the civil society are able to participate effectively in the budget process. Effective participation refers to the opportunities for the legislature and civil society to make their viewpoints known and to have these views taken seriously. This requires that the budget process must be opened for interested parties to influence the budget and assess whether government/local authorities undertook what it planned. The trainings will help the process through explaining the practical use of Guide to Budgets and providing tailored- for- Macedonian audiences examples of the budget preparation and monitoring. Therefore, this project will transfer knowledge, skills and experience through workshops and lectures and contribute to better understanding of the principles, values and goals of the budgetary process and of the strategic planning/policy analysis required for successful preparation and execution of the budgets.
DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN OPPORTUNITIES
The project “Discovering the hidden opportunities”, to be carried out jointly by CRPM from Skopje and READ from Blagoevgrad, aims at conducting an in-depth policy research allowing identifying and analyzing the potential for socio-economic development in the Municipalities of Delchevo and Blagoevgrad, thus locating the opportunities for boosting the sustainable cross-border cooperation between both towns and municipalities.
The state of affairs in both municipalities has been rarely and insufficiently investigated, thus being hardly known for a wider public in Macedonia and Bulgaria. The policy research on comparative advantages and weaknesses of Delchevo and Blagoevgrad are hardly evident, thus minimizing the possibilities for deepening of the trans-border cooperation and extracting the mutual benefits for both municipalities. Though the petty cross-border trade activities between Delchevo and Blagoevgrad are thriving, there is lack of wider vision and strategy for more sophisticated development of bilateral socio-economic relations, thus preventing the exchange of experience and good practice. Such strategy is badly needed as the local economic development and regional cooperation are among the top priorities for EU. Bulgaria joining the Union in 2007, and Macedonia being a candidate-country, should prove that they are able to cooperate and strengthen the mutual socio-economic ties on local and micro level, improving the communication between the neighboring municipalities such as Delchevo and Blagoevgrad. Analyzing the existing potentials for socio-economic growth in both municipalities as well as investigating the current state of affairs and intensity and quality of bilateral relations between Delchevo and Blagoevgrad should provide the opportunity for proposing concrete measures for utilizing the “undiscovered wealth” of both municipalities, i.e. its tourist and folkloristic attractions. CRPM and READ aim at undertaking joint efforts for exploring and popularizing the tourist potential in both municipalities and attempt to mobilize the relevant stake-holders on both sides of the borders to exercise the cross-border cooperation in order to advertise jointly both municipalities’ natural attractions. This should allow meeting the specific objective of this project – enhancing the potential for socio-economic growth of Delchevo and Blagoevgrad by launching concrete joint initiative for development of tourism in both municipalities.
UNLEASHING BUDGET WATCHDOGS
There is a need in Macedonia for domestic watchdog groups to monitor, analyze and disseminate findings on budgetary issues, and in so doing, to help citizens press Macedonian government for corruption-free use of public revenues. Our project aims precisely at supplying this key missing bond in the Macedonian anti-corruption strategy. It will recruit budget watchdog groups from among various NGOs and business associations in Macedonia, train them in budget monitoring and related issues, furnish support in their prospective work and eventually – establish a network platform of budget watchdog groups. The work of these groups, together with parallel efforts by other national and international factors, shall then lead to better informed citizens more able to use their voice and vote to bring to light, and discontinue, public sector corrupt practices and accordingly – to a better performing government.
REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT CONCEPTS
Developing a Regional Development Plan for the Bregalnica Region in the following areas: Tourisam, Infrastructure, Agriculture
GENDER AWARE POLICY ANALYSIS OF THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR (DRG)
In Macedonia there is no gender responsive budgeting and gender aware policy making. This project seeks to change this predicament. It will explore the implications on gender of the policy measures recently promoted by the Macedonian government striving to increase Macedonia’s competitiveness and decrease public spending. The project looks at a crucial sector under reform: health, and its results will give gender perspective of budgeting and policy making on national and local level. The project consists of gender sensitive analyses that will use the following tools: gender aware policy appraisal, gender-disaggregated beneficiary assessment.
The first tool will be applied on a specific policy measure- introducing Diagnosis-Related Group (DRG)-envisioned by the Ministry of Health to be implemented in the coming year. DRG, a medical cost reimbursement method, will be used to rationalize hospital service regulating the duration of the hospitalization of patients in public hospitals. Within the specific policy measure public hospitals will have to adjust the resources they spend to the types of patients treated. Specific categories of patients will be given treatment within a defined time frame adjusted to the costs of the treatment the health provider occurs. Our task is to assess whether this measure is gender neutral. Is it likely that it will increase gender inequalities? Will this measure create additional unpaid work for women taking care of patients discharged by hospitals? A comparison will be made between the savings the hospitals will make using the DRG with the costs that persons, in most likelihood women, will occur, carrying for patients discharged from hospitals but still in a need for care. This unpaid work will be evaluated and weighted against the savings in the health care budget. To see the implications of this policy measure on various groups of women (urban, rural and those belonging to an ethnic minority), the analysis will be implemented in three municipalities as case studies: Struga, Sveti Nikole, and Shuto Orizari. Three CRPM partner organizations, local NGOs working on gender issues (Organization of Women of Sveti Nikole, Aureola and Esma) in the case study towns will help in the making of the analysis. CRPM will transfer to these organizations skills in policy analysis and budget monitoring using a gender approach. CRPM expects technical assistance from UNIFEM in adding a gender perspective in the policy analysis training for the local organizations. Using the experiences from this project we expect that our partner organizations will transfer such know-how to other local NGOs in the future. The project will be implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Health.
MIGRATION FLOWS IN SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
The general objective of the regional project is strengthening cross-border cooperation in the Western Balkan regarding migration management. Within the Center for Research and Policy Making identified patterns and problems associated with migration flows including identifying local, idiosyncratic problems and their apparent causes.
The methodological approach has the following components:
identification of existing data sources and relevant research, in order to provide a context for the study, along with a clear understanding of methodologies adopted in previous research undertaken.
compilation of ‘own data’ for Macedonia consisting of macro-data concerning major structural obstacles for migrants to successful access to economic, social and cultural rights.
micro-data regarding the individual characteristics of migrants and the circumstances of their flight.
selection of case-studies, in order to utilize micro-data.
OPEN BUDGET INITIATIVE
CRPM participates in the Open Budget Initiative 2008, a research and advocacy project to promote public access to budget information and accountable budget-making process and institutions. The project collects comparative cross-country data on publicly available budget information at the central government level, and on other issues related to the budget process at the national level. This data is used to calculate the Open Budget Index, a comparative country ranking. The Index and other data collected by the project are intended to assist researchers as they advocate with government for improvements in public access to information and in budgeting practices that are more accountable to citizens.