To successfully integrate into the European Union (EU), a country must have a professional, accountable and effective public administration system in place, free of political interference and corruption and accessible to all citizens.
At the same time, EU membership also heavily depends on an administration that is specialised in EU law and therefore capable of meeting the challenges of integration, also known as the accession process.
Public administration reform and good governance are key priorities under the political and administrative criteria in the countries of the Western Balkans. Given the importance assigned to public administration reform, the EU supports the countries of the Western Balkans; Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, through the integration process.
Support comes in the form of not only political support but also through dedicated pre-accession funds, institutional cooperation instruments, and capacity development.
Despite beginning to implement such reforms in the aftermath of communist collapse, public administrations in all six countries still demonstrate similar structural and procedural weaknesses and capacity gaps. These relate to both policy analysis and formulation as well as to the management of the EU integration agenda.
A report by the European Commission and Support for Improvement in Governance and Management confirms a pressing need in the region to:
- strengthen public governance
- fight corruption
- strengthen the rule of law
- enhance public administration capacity
- improve the business environment
- develop a more professional civil service.
At the Paris Western Balkans 2016 Summit, and amidst the circumstances marked by the outcome of the referendum in the UK, regional leaders from the Western Balkans reaffirmed that their countries’ future does indeed lie in the EU.
Therefore, to support the accession process and help each of the countries prepare, the European Commission and the governments of the Western Balkans have agreed to implement a pilot project for one year.
The project, which was awarded directly to the British Council Kosovo to implement and manage, will develop a regional executive training programme for young civil servants across the Western Balkans.
Reserved for young civil servants employed in specific offices of Public Administrations in one of the six countries in the region, it targets young mid-level civil servants involved in policy formulation and strategy planning within the Prime Ministers’ Office, the Ministry/Office for European Integration, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The overall objective will be to deepen regional cooperation in the region and therefore support the accession process. It has two specific objects:
- Build professional capacity: prepare the next generation of public administrators and policy makers who will be in charge of the accession process, therefore enabling them to drive and lead future change in their societies.
- Promote regional cooperation: at civil service level, make cross-border connections between these leaders and agents of change.
The purpose of the project resonates well with the EU’s enlargement policy for the Western Balkans. It also mirrors the European Commission’s objective to assist the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance beneficiaries in their overall development towards regional reconciliation.