CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION IN THE PROCESS OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
1. What is the role of the civil society in the European integration process?
Civil society has an important role in policy drafting and implementation especially within the European integration process. The importance of cooperation with the civil society has been highlighted with the inclusion of article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union which notes the importance of the civil dialogue as well as the condition by the EU to Balkan countries to stimulate this dialogue so that the civil society can exercise its role in this process and increase the democratic representation of the society.
In Kosovo, civil society participation in the European integration process is developed in two platforms, that of the cooperation between the civil society – EU institutions and civil society – local institutions.
2. Which EU mechanisms are open to the civil society in Kosovo?
The main cooperation mechanisms between civil society organizations and EU institutions in Kosovo are: Stabilization-Association Process Dialogue (SAPD), European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), IPA – Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance and the CSO contribution for the Progress Report.
- The main purpose of political and technical meetings within the Stabilization-Association process Dialogue is to follow and monitor reforms in Kosovo and the process of approximation with the EU. Within the political dialogue, CSO are invited to a meeting once a year which is held one day prior to the plenary session of the SAPD, where they have the opportunity to present their assessment and their concerns relating to the latest developments, based on their field of expertise, whereas EC representatives will officially raise these questions and issues during the official plenary meeting between the EC and Kosovo authorities.
- European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights is the key instrument of the European Commission to support the civil society in Kosovo and this instrument was implemented in 2008.
- IPA – Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) is an instrument of the European Commission which is aimed at technical assistance to Western Balkan countries. Also lately CSOs are consulted during the programming of the Multi-annual Indicative Planning Document (MIPD).
- Progress report – European Office in Kosovo also invites CSOs for comments for the drafting of the Progress Report where the civil society has the opportunity to directly provide inputs to the EU Office on their fields of expertise.
3. What is the Stabilization-Association Process Dialogue?
The Communication “Kosovo – fulfilling its European Perspective”, approved by the Commission in November 2009 began an intensified political dialogue, the Stabilization-Association Process Dialogue (SAPD). Within the SAPD, political and technical meetings are held to follow and monitor Kosovo’s reforms and the process of approximation with the EU, especially related to the priorities defined in the European Partnership approved by the Council of Europe on February 18, 2008. The meetings of SAP dialogue are co-chaired by the European Commission and Government of Kosovo. Each meeting results in subsequent actions which are jointly agreed and which need to be undertaken by the Kosovar authorities. Plenary meetings of the SAP dialogue are held once a year. Until now, tens of meetings have been organized to deepen the technical discussion on the fields of justice; freedom and security; innovation; information society; and social policies; trade; internal market and competition, agriculture and fishing; transportation, environment, energy and regional development; economic development. Sectorial meetings of the SAP Dialogue are held once a year, in Prishtina and Brussels. Time between these meetings enables the implementation of agreed recommendations and actions.
4. What mechanisms of the Government of Kosovo are open to the civil society in Kosovo?
Government of Kosovo key mechanisms which are open to the civil society are: 1) National Council for European integration led by the Presidency; 2) Task Force for European Integration led by the Ministry for European Integration; 3) Commission for European Integration of the Assembly of Kosovo; 4) Ministry of European Integration mainly for the programming of financial assistance for the fields of education, communication and information.
5. What is the role of the National Council for European Integration?
National Council for European Integration led by the Presidency (NCEI) is a consultative and coordinating forum which aims to formulate consensual national policies of the Republic of Kosovo for European Integration, by facilitating the coordination of activities of all the parties involved. The Council was founded and is led by the President of Kosovo. The civil society is represented through three members in this structure. Civil society representatives are elected through an open nomination process. The three representatives of the civil society come from organizations that have experience and projects in the field of European Integration, such as Kosovo Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) and Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS) or represent influential networks in Kosovo such as Civikos Platform. Recently NCEI was also joined by KLI and GLPS.
7. What is the role of the Task Force for European Integration?
The Task Force for European Integration is a national consensus-building mechanism that aims to gather various experts from the entire governmental and non-governmental structures of the country, in order to discuss and comprehensively analyze the current state of affairs and the challenges that must be addressed within the European integration process. The Task Force aims to multiply the efforts and commitments through the participation and contribution of all actors in governance, politics, academic life, the public life, civil society, media and other stakeholders who have an interest in the European integration process. This will be achieved through the division of labor into 7 Thematic Roundtables. Civil society representatives are invited into this structure based on their expertise in certain sectors to contribute and submit their concerns, whereas some of the thematic roundtables are even led by experts that come from the civil society. Based on the challenges raised at the Thematic Roundtable, the Task Force will present specific recommendations for strategic policies of the European integration process. The main aim of the Task Force shall be developing the National Strategy for European Integration.
7. How is the civil society involved in the IPA and EIDHR programming?
The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) is an instrument of the European Council that aims towards technical assistance for countries with a membership perspective. EU Office in Kosovo consults CSOs for description of projects through a Joint Monitoring Committee to ensure the best efficiency of the assistance and to avoid duplications. Also the civil society is consulted during the programming of the Multi-annual Indicative Planning Document as well as the Annual assistance plans from the IPA for Kosovo as well as direct assistance for the civil society through IPA or EIDHR instrument for the region or Kosovo.
8. What is the progress report of the European Commission and what is the contribution of the civil society in drafting the EC progress report for Kosovo?
Progress reports are issued by the European Commission for each country of the Western Balkans involved in the Stabilization-Association Process. These reports describe relations between countries of the Western Balkan and those of the European Union. Usually the European Commission issues these reports in autumn of every year. The reports are a yearly reflection of the achievements, delays and challenges in the reforms that stem from the Copenhagen criteria, meaning political, economic and European standards. Through the progress report, a review is done for countries that aim for EU membership regarding the implementation of European standards which means approximation of its legislation and policies with those of the Acquis Communautaire of the EU. Progress for each Balkan country is measure based on decisions taken, approved legislation and implementation of measures. To ensure equal access treatment, laws or measures that are under preparation or are awaiting any type of approval are not taken under consideration. This approach shows an equal treatment and objective assessment for all the countries. The Progress reports are written for each country of the Western Balkans and have the same structure. The reports analyze the political situation of these countries relating to fields such as: the functioning of institutions, democracy, rule of law, human rights, protection of minorities, regional issues, economic, financial reforms and those of sectorial fields of the EU.
9. What community programs does the civil society in Kosovo benefit from?
- IPA – Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance – which aims to support the stabilization-association process through technical assistance;
- EIDHR – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights is the key instrument of the European Commission for supporting the civil society;
- TAIEX – is a technical assistance and exchange of information program that aims to approximate, apply and empower EU legislation;
- Twinning – is an instrument for cooperation between public administrations of EU member states and beneficiary countries; and
- TEMPUS – program that aims to support higher education through university cooperation projects.