After Montenegro started the negotiations in 2012, and Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, the sequence of EU integration in the Western Balkan continues with Serbia, starting the official accession negotiation with the EU on 21 January 2014.

The accession negotiations have become a more complex challenge with new rules in the enlargement process for the aspiring countries in the region.  The so called enlargement fatigue, the economic crisis deeply affecting also the candidate countries have led to new conditionality approaches, more demanding monitoring of the progress made for countries in post-conflict transition to democracy. Lessons learnt from the process of Croatia’s accession are an important heritage for Montenegro and Serbia sharing the common historic, cultural, linguistic background. In this way, the experience gained throughout opening and closing the negotiation chapters in one country has become a valuable incentive for bilateral/regional institutional co-operation for two more countries in the Western Balkans.

The ongoing intensive visits including the exchange of the parliamentarian commissions for EU integration of Montenegro and Serbia with the Croatian counterparts, an increasing use in public of the EU integration related vocabulary pertaining to the 35 negotiation chapters (what are we negotiating about?) are an evident signal of the political will to accelerate the reforms needed so much after the years of “postponed transition” in Serbia in particular.

Twenty-first January 2014 is therefore even more a historic event, since the start of official negotiation process leaves behind the phase in which the EU integration was largely located within the government institutions. The compulsory screening process within each of the chapters indicates a need for introducing a wide consultation with all the relevant stakeholders of EU integration process – local authorities and civil society in particular, since some 70% of the implementation of evolving acquis is taking place at the local tier of government. The development of sufficient administrative capacity at local level, full implementation of key reforms and legislation in the areas of the rule of law, reform of the judiciary, effective implementation of legislation on the protection of minorities, the non-discriminatory treatment of national minorities, tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are some of the key challenges of the IPA 2014-2020 Programming phase requiring much more effective planning and coordination with the local authorities and civil society sector.

This is exactly the area for further actions planning for both ALDA and LDAs in Serbia and Montenegro is extremely important, as already included in the SECO network (Sectoral CSO coordination process) of NGOs involved in public administration reform and CSOs development. Participating in continued dialogue between the EU and civil society in these two countries is more than necessary so as to contribute to realization of the basic mission of ALDA and LDAs in the region: bringing people in local communities together to help ensure the support of citizens for the accession process.

Stanka Parac Damjanovic
ALDA regional Programme Coordinator

After Montenegro started the negotiations in 2012, and Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, the sequence of EU integration in the Western Balkan continues with Serbia, starting the official accession negotiation with the EU on 21 January 2014.

The accession negotiations have become a more complex challenge with new rules in the enlargement process for the aspiring countries in the region.  The so called enlargement fatigue, the economic crisis deeply affecting also the candidate countries have led to new conditionality approaches, more demanding monitoring of the progress made for countries in post-conflict transition to democracy. Lessons learnt from the process of Croatia’s accession are an important heritage for Montenegro and Serbia sharing the common historic, cultural, linguistic background. In this way, the experience gained throughout opening and closing the negotiation chapters in one country has become a valuable incentive for bilateral/regional institutional co-operation for two more countries in the Western Balkans.

The ongoing intensive visits including the exchange of the parliamentarian commissions for EU integration of Montenegro and Serbia with the Croatian counterparts, an increasing use in public of the EU integration related vocabulary pertaining to the 35 negotiation chapters (what are we negotiating about?) are an evident signal of the political will to accelerate the reforms needed so much after the years of “postponed transition” in Serbia in particular.

Twenty-first January 2014 is therefore even more a historic event, since the start of official negotiation process leaves behind the phase in which the EU integration was largely located within the government institutions. The compulsory screening process within each of the chapters indicates a need for introducing a wide consultation with all the relevant stakeholders of EU integration process – local authorities and civil society in particular, since some 70% of the implementation of evolving acquis is taking place at the local tier of government. The development of sufficient administrative capacity at local level, full implementation of key reforms and legislation in the areas of the rule of law, reform of the judiciary, effective implementation of legislation on the protection of minorities, the non-discriminatory treatment of national minorities, tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are some of the key challenges of the IPA 2014-2020 Programming phase requiring much more effective planning and coordination with the local authorities and civil society sector.

This is exactly the area for further actions planning for both ALDA and LDAs in Serbia and Montenegro is extremely important, as already included in the SECO network (Sectoral CSO coordination process) of NGOs involved in public administration reform and CSOs development. Participating in continued dialogue between the EU and civil society in these two countries is more than necessary so as to contribute to realization of the basic mission of ALDA and LDAs in the region: bringing people in local communities together to help ensure the support of citizens for the accession process.

Stanka Parac Damjanovic
ALDA regional Programme Coordinator