Regional co-operation is an essential element of Stabilisation and Association Process – the process guiding the South East 6 countries towards EU membership. It helps the region to address shared challenges such as energy shortages, pollution, transport infrastructure, cross-border criminal activities, etc. Progress in regional cooperation is monitored in annual progress reports.
Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) – is the instrument by which the EU supports reforms in the ‘enlargement countries’ with financial and technical help. Current beneficiaries are all SEE6 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
The EU supports regional cooperation via the following pillars:
A) Horizontal support
Technical assistance, information and training for authorities in IPA beneficiaries, through the TAIEX instrument and in the form of twinning. This makes available the know-how of EU and international organisations and best practices, including for evidence-based policy making (statistical cooperation), thereby helping improve the formulation and implementation of national sector policies and the related reform strategies.
B) Regional cooperation structures and networks
Promotes regional cooperation, networking and sharing of best practice to help IPA beneficiaries prepare for EU membership, align their national legislation with EU law (acquis) and gradually adapt to EU standards and practices.
Support in this strand targets initiatives like:
- Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) – a regionally owned and led framework for cooperation in South East Europe, with a Secretariat based in Sarajevo and a Liaison Office in Brussels.
RCC helps prosperity and growth through regional action in South East Europe, while supporting European and Euro-Atlantic integration. RCC covers fields such as: i) Competitiveness (Lifting barriers through economy); ii) Human Capital (Better opportunities for decent work and good life); iii) Digital Transformation (Connecting the region); iv) Justice & Home Affairs (Safe and Secure Western Balkans); v) Environment (Going green).
In the last Western Balkan Summit of Berlin Process in Sofia 2020, several ambitious agendas and plans were endorsed:
- Common Regional Market (CRM) Action Plan
- Green Agenda for the SEE6
- Economic and Investment Plan (EIP)
Those plans and agendas will be financially supported by IPA III 2021 – 2027.
- Regional School for Public Administration (ReSPA) – Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA) is an international organization that endeavors to contribute to the improvement of public administration in the Western Balkans.
The main goals of ReSPA are: i)help the improving of regional cooperation in public administration; ii) strengthening the administrative capacity according to the requirements of the process of European Integration; iii) human resource development in accordance with the principles of the European Administrative Space; iv)organize activities related to the exchange of good practices.
- South-East Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO) substituted with Transport Community Secretariat (TCS) – The organisation was founded by the Treaty establishing the Transport Community signed on 9th of October 2017 by all partners (Council Decision (EU) 2019/392) at the Trieste Summit (Berlin Process).
The aim of the Treaty therefore is the creation of a Transport Community in the field of road, rail, inland waterway and maritime transport as well as the development of the transport network between the European Union and the six Western Balkan Parties. The Transport Community is supported by a Permanent Secretariat, based in Belgrade, Serbia. It is tasked to: i) provide administrative support to the Ministerial Council, the Regional Steering Committee, the technical committees and the Social Forum; ii) act as a Transport Observatory to monitor the performance of the indicative TEN-T extension of the comprehensive and core networks to the Western Balkans; iii) support the implementation of the Western Balkans Six (WB6) Connectivity Agenda aiming to improve links within the Western Balkans as well as between the region and the European Union.
- Energy Community – All six beneficiaries are members of the Energy Community Treaty (2006), which aims at extending the EU internal energy market to South East Europe.
Energy Community Treaty was created to: i) establish an integrated energy market promoting energy trade in the Western Balkans; ii) promote integration with the EU market; iii) contribute in the improving the security of supply.
The Energy Community implements the basic laws of the energy of the EU and is focused on trade liberalization, environment, energy efficiency, capacity building and social dialogue.
- Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) – Since 2006, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) is helping prepare the economies of the Western Balkans for the competitive pressures of the EU single market. The process of mutual trade liberalization is intensifying competition and stimulating national reforms to increase competitiveness. CEFTA is an important element of the SEE 2020 Strategy.
- Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG) – was founded on the basis of a common wish to establish an organization for sustainable rural development in SEE. It consists of representatives of governmental institutions responsible for agriculture and rural development in respective countries and territories.
C) Regional investment support
Officially launched in 2009, the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) is a joint initiative of the Commission, Council of Europe Development Bank, EBRD and EIB. It is an innovative financing initiative, bringing together grants and loans from the Commission, the partner international financial institutions and bilateral donors for infrastructure projects and socio-economic development in the Western Balkans.
Since the launch of the Connectivity Agenda in 2015, over €1 billion from EU pre-accession funds has been allocated through grants for 45 high priority connectivity projects LEVERAGING €3.7 billion in investment.
Several other financial instruments complement WBIF in supporting competitiveness of business connectivity between beneficiaries and EU countries, environmental protection & climate change mitigation/adaptation.
D) Territorial cooperation
It promotes good neighbourly relations between, and local development in, border regions – through cross-border programmes within the region and countries already in the EU, as well as transnational cooperation programmes and related macro-regional programmes. Several programmes are programmed in a 7-years cycle which support territorial cooperation in many fields and sectors.
Last update 26 January 2021