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STRATEGY OF ALDA IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE: ALDA WORK IN WESTERN BALKAN COUNTRIES

For good neighbourly relations and inclusive regional co-operation

Enlargement negotiation process as launched in 2014 in many ways determines the approach of the new Commission in relation with a historic experience of integration achievement and future challenges. Agenda for the Western Balkans once again reiterates a clear European perspective for the citizens of these countries despite the decision that no new accession will take place in the course of at least five year time. Time to reflect has come to address the consequences of crisis within the EU but also the time for the Balkan countries to strengthen the credibility of the reform process towards accession. Improving transparency, rule of law, good governance, economic governance and competitiveness remain high on the agenda as the criteria of a tangible progress for both citizens and economies in the region.
Considering the pace and scope of democratic institution building in both candidate and potential candidate countries, transparency of the negotiation process and in particular the consultation with diverse sections of society in public policy making or introducing legislative changes has become increasingly important. Making the reform process closer and better known to citizens and in local communities in particular, rather than keeping it within the realm of institutions is therefore among the key challenges for the policy and decision makers in the Balkan countries. In other words, openness of the reform process for all who will benefit from the EU accession is among the key lessons learnt from the previous 2007-2013 IPA Programming period. Therefore more structured civil dialogue and mechanisms of consultation with CSOs, academia, local self-governments is needed throughout the “chaptered” negotiation process, as the grounds for profound understanding and ownership over the legislative changes on one hand, and even more for the organisational capacity to monitor their effective implementation.
IPA 2014-2020 Programming phase is more sector planning oriented thus requiring an adequate institutional architecture in place and even more improved vertical and horizontal coordination. Engaging both CSOs and local self-governments perhaps more than ever before entails an increasing need for comprehensive cross-sectoral partnership and coalition building, thematic networking, inclusive collaboration at local and regional (Balkan) level. 

ALDA IN IPA 2 PROGRAMMING PERIOD:
AN ACTION ORIENTED COMMUNITY OF GOOD GOVERNANCE PRACTICE

ALDA as the European Association for Local Democracy together with its Local Democracy Agencies  situated in five Western Balkan countries has developed a structured regional co-operation platform engaging CSOs, local self-governments, academia and various stakeholders for improved participation and dialogue with the focus on  promotion of social and economic inclusion of age groups that risk marginalisation and in particular youngsters.
 
ALDA network members in the Balkans and LDAs in particular with uninterrupted long history of working in the post-conflict societies have demonstrated both a dedication to working closely with the host city authorities and with diverse local stakeholders on one side, and a strong allegiance to building inter-municipal, cross-border and regional co-operation networks, thus becoming an outstanding protagonist of getting the EU integration process closer to citizens and a reliable partner in the actions promoting social/ economic reforms on the way to EU accession.

ALDA has been present in the Balkan countries since its establishment in 1999, while the LDAs in Subotica and Osijek were established as early as in 1993. Such a long standing presence at grass-root level combined with the establishment of 11 LDAs until 2008., when the LDA Albania was opened, represents today an asset and quality that only a limited number of CSOs in the region can acclaim with. A groundbreaking  momentum determining the future work of ALDA and LDAs regional networking programme was in 2003, (Thessaloniki Agenda of EU integration of the Western Balkans) at the General Assembly in Subotica, Serbia, when ALDA strategy for EU integration of the Western Balkans was adopted.

Since 2003., ALDA regional strategy in promoting EU integration of Western Balkan countries comprises four main pillars or programmes based on substantive approach adjusted to the needs of post-conflict societies striving for comprehensive  socio-economic recovery, institutional reform, reconciliation and for speeding up the pace to the full accession in the European Union:

  • Promoting EU standards of democratic governance through international decentralized co-operation programmes
  • Fostering conducive environment for civil society development through capacity building and advocacy actions for effective implementation of municipal memorandums of co-operation and establishment of LDAs operating as NGO Resource and Development focal points
  • Enhancing thematic and issue based networking for promoting civil society and local self-governments as relevant actors of EU integration process through capacity building for EU projects development and implementation, awareness raising and public campaigns in support to profound understanding of the reform process on the way to EU integration
  •  Promotion of ALDA and LDAs work and contributing effectively to regional initiatives through established regional co-operation platforms including the European Year of Active Citizenship – EYAC, participation in dialogue with EU and consultation process within IPA Civil Society Facility (CSF) Programme, close co-operation with EU supported Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organisations -  TACSO Programme regional and country based offices, consultation process within IPA 2 – Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance 2014-2020, contribution to IPA CBC Programming and project designing within IPA CBC Programmes: Croatia – Serbia, Croatia – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia – Montenegro, Montenegro – Albania.

EFFECTIVELY CONTRIBUTING TO THE EUROPEAN YEAR OF DEVELOPMENT 2015

ALDA and LDAs consistent involvement in Western Balkan countries has made the LDAs network recognizable actors of promoting EU integration at local level, inclusive local development and good governance principles. Establishment of ALDA Office in Subotica (2008) and registration of ALDA Macedonia (2012) have become essential and will be further used as the tools for providing technical and operational support to ALDA and LDAs with a view to IPA 2 Programming in particular. Further attention will be given to organizational capacity building and networking for successful project development and implementation. Success stories of jointly designed and implemented projects within at least six EU funding instruments (IPA CSF, IPA EU Info Programme, IPA Cross-border Co-operation Programme, EIDHR, Youth in Action and EVS Programmes and more recently EU Citizenship Programme) are more than evident results that contributed substantially to strengthened organizational capacities of LDAs. With this in view it is particularly relevant to note:

  • ALDA for the Western Balkan LDAs (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) Operating Grant 2015 for thematic regional networks with the support by the European Commission, DG Enlargement Regional Programmes
  • ALDA work with LDAs Mostar, Zavidovici, Osijek and Subotica within two year co-operation programme Civil Society in Action for Dialogue and Partnership (2011/2013)
  • ALDA work with LDAs Zavidovici, Verteneglio, Sisak, Osijek within EU Info Programme – European and Our Affairs and Youth for EU
  • ALDA initiated activities with LDAs Montenegro, Central Serbia and Subotica within Civil Society Facility Programme: Local Coalitions for Community Development and the first Sub-granting component launched for NGOs in Montenegro (2012/2014)
  • ALDA work with LDAs Kosovo and Albania within Youth in Action training programmes, EVS exchange and comparative research/analysis on decentralization and local governance system (2009/2012)
  • ALDA partnership support to LDAs Sisak, Osijek and Subotica in designing and implementing Cross-border Co-operation projects (CBC Programmes Croatia-Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia-Serbia – 2011/2014) aimed to establish cross-border youth volunteering centres and support to networking and twinning for local NGOs and border area municipalities at European level - SNET.EU.
  • ALDA initiated activities with LDAs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia to promote intercultural exchange, reconciliation and confidence building measures through country based and regional panels, youth encounters, research and publishing work (2009/2011)

ALDA long term perspectives in the Western Balkans with reference to IPA 2014-2020 Programming period are reflected in the following ALDA thematic Programmes based on close co-operation with the LDAs, ALDA members, operational partners and other relevant regional co-operation stakeholders at EU and regional level:

  • ALDA Programme 1: Promoting democratic governance and participation in policy and decision making process through advocacy actions, awareness raising, research and analysis work conducted through ALDA Macedonia, operational partners and LDAs
  • ALDA Programme 2: Strengthening the network of LDAs as future CSOs Resource and Training centres for more effective participation in public policy reforms, further negotiation process and accession to EU. 
  • ALDA Programme 3: Fostering social cohesion through promoting policy measures in social entrepreneurship development and social inclusion, inter-generational solidarity, promoting intercultural exchange and reconciliation, as well as youth and women’s empowerment.      


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