In the framework of the Berlin Process Series and as an integral part of scoping and classifying WB6 regional integration initiatives, projects and different activities, the latest CDI endeavour is the Regional Cooperation Initiatives (RCI) database. RCI is built upon an in-depth desk research work carried out by CDI between October 2016 – February 2017. We have looked for regional initiatives that involve the membership and active contribution involving at least two state actors from WB6 belonging to the executive branch (both at central and local level), or to the legislative and judiciary branches. To complete the view of regional cooperation we also have included initiatives carried on from non-state actors such as business, media, academia, and trade unions that have an explicit or implicit state support and / or backing. This mapping exercise of the regional cooperation initiatives shows that Albania is part of at least 71 regional cooperation platforms. Donor-funded project-based activities have not been included at this stage.
In order to identify the main features of these regional cooperation initiatives, the mapping exercise has brought to light their constitutive status, institutionalization degree of each platform, its sector of activity, membership, and the governance bodies. The constitutive status includes the year of establishment; its mission; the main sector of activity; and the involved stakeholders. Whereas the institutionalization degree focuses on the number of member countries and initiative’s headquarter.
Regarding the policy areas of cooperation, the identified regional initiatives cover a wide-range of issues. We have divided them empirically using the Regional Cooperation Council classification, the EU sector approach taxonomy and our own judgement. As per their goal and objectives, most of these initiatives operate in the areas of (i) economy = 12, (ii) social = 13, (iii) justice and home affairs = 12 and (iv) security = 12.
Shifting to the profile of the stakeholders, the majority of these initiatives have an inter-governmental nature (57%), bringing so in focus the role of the executive and the limited involvement of non-governmental actors.
In terms of institutionalization, the majority of the regional cooperation initiatives have an established headquarter (21 in WB6 and 50 out of the WB6 region)
Regional cooperation in the Western Balkans in general and the many concrete initiatives that support it, are generally assessed as bringing a positive contribution in the policy areas they cover. However they share some cross-cutting challenges regarding the: (i) avoidance of overlapping and need for better coordination; (ii) need for better use of existing resources (financial, legislative and institutional) / promotion of best practice / enhancement of local ownership through a better involvement of citizen, grass-root movements and civil society organisations (iii) a better designed and transparent monitoring and evaluation system including clearly defined indicators and targets (iv) financial resources optimisation and, (v) an effective evaluation of the tangible benefits felt by the local population.
After a quarter of century of regional cooperation at high political level, the process can only benefit by its extension to other strategic local stakeholders. Therefore, the inclusion of the civil society and an intensification of participation of business community in existing WB6 RCIs where they are directly impacted need to be further explored and developed. Also, an increased support and government backing of new WB6 CSO and / or business RCIs is required in close coordination with different existing foreign donors. WB6 governments should be more supportive especially vis-a-vis CSO initiatives given the very limited amount of resources those structures poses. Finally, WB6 CSO and businesses should be considered as partners in bringing forward the regional cooperation process, as well as bringing it close to the Balkans citizen.
CDI is aware that this latest addition of ORI needs further completion. Regional integration is a dynamic endeavour. Herewith we would be grateful to any input / critique / correction / suggestion / proposal that we receive and that contributes in improving the RCI database.
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