We are happy to share that the contract signing ceremony with the Regional Grants winning organizations was held on December 29th via ZOOM!
About Regional grants
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, as beneficiary countries of the Smart Balkans project, form a geographical region in which politically, socially, culturally, and historically these countries are linked.
Strengthening the capacity of CSOs in the region through enhanced cooperation between civil society and government and through building regional partnerships at all levels to increase the influence of citizens in the decision-making process, will contribute to the desired change of creating peaceful and inclusive communities in the Western Balkans which will promote sustainable development of their societies. Civil society participation in the policy development processes is one of the most important ingredients to European integration. One of the Smart Balkans objectives is for the project to support the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region and considering that European integration is not just individual objective of each project’s beneficiary countries, but of the region, the project aims to facilitate regional cooperation and networking towards that goal. For this purpose, Smart Balkan has designed the regional grant scheme, although creating regional networks and partnerships will be stressed wherever possible.
Regional Grants are a funding mechanism for consortiums of minimum 3 CSOs from 3 countries, and/or formal or informal regional networks for projects related to Security and Stability, and Governance, with strong regional dimension.
While the type of activities to support the above priority areas are to be proposed by the applicant, the following non-exhaustive list of examples can be given:
Security and Stability
- Combating radicalization
- Disinformation as a security threat
- Arms trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Cybercrime as a destabilizer of security
- The fight against organized crime
- Prevention of money laundering
- The fight against terrorism
- Good security amid the armed conflict and climate change
- The influence of the climate change on the security and stability in the region
- Energy security
- Preparedness for emergency situations
- Intercultural dialogue
- Social cohesion, reconciliation and peace
- Human security and gender equality
- Cyber security
- Data privacy
- Overseeing security institutions/monitoring the implementation of security and stability policies
- Promoting digital literacy
- Freedom of expression
- Civil society participation in decision making
- Fight against fake news
- Euro-Atlantic integration
- Public administration reforms
- Hidden economy
- Corruption, including high level corruption
- Developed strong regional partnerships between civil society organizations from the region of the Western Balkans
- Developed strong regional partnership between CSOs and with their EU counterparts and public authorities
- Increased effectiveness of citizen influencing through regional networking on Security and Stability and Governance in the Western Balkans region
Who are the winning organisations?
- Cooperation and development institute from Albania
- Sos Helpline Nikšić from Montenegro
- Novi Sad School of journalism from Serbia
- Albanian Disability Right Foundation from Albania
- European Policy Centre from Serbia
- Institute for strategic Research and Education from North Macedonia
- Children & youth from Serbia
- International association “Interactive open schools” – MIOS from Bosnia and Herzegovina
- FINANCE THINK – Economic Research and Policy Institute from North Macedonia
The Center for Civil Society Promotion (CPCD), in cooperation with partner organizations from North Macedonia – Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM) and Albania – Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway, in the amount of 17 ,4 million EUR, successfully realized on December 20 and 21, 2022, at Hotel Cue in Podgorica, the first regional conference of the project SMART Balkans – Civil society for a connected Western Balkans.
The conference brought together more than 100 participants from 6 countries of the region, and 22 people from the civil sector, religious communities, media, academia, and researchers of social processes spoke on three panels.
The conference “Elephants in the Civic Space” aimed to open a dialogue on two essential topics: “The role of religion and religious leaders in socio-political movements and decision-making processes in the Western Balkans region” and “Practices and lessons learned on workforce management and human resources in the civil sector.” These challenges are the untapped potential for socio-political changes.
“Transparency, professional approach, integrity, and local ownership are values that every organization should have to be relevant and have a good image in their communities. Regional cooperation is important, especially as it brings people together and leads to a more consolidated, prosperous, stable, and secure region.” Nela Jović, Senior Program Advisor, Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in Belgrade.
Aida Daguda, the directress of the Center for Civil Society Promotion, said that the topics of the conference were illustrated with elephants, which speaks about the size of the problem.
“In light of the general challenges faced by the Western Balkans countries, such as low economic development, slow transition, and problems with the rule of law, it is necessary to point out the contribution of religion and civil society in all these issues. Religion is vital in forming culture, self-awareness, and national identity in the Western Balkans. Therefore it is essential to discuss its influence on all the areas above. A particular problem within civil society is human resources and the outflow of labor. The problem is more common and visible than in other regions because civil society organizations are non-profit and operate for a higher mission. We open this topic because it is the responsibility of all of us in the civil sector to ensure the well-being of all citizens, “ said Aida Daguda.
The SMART Balkan project contributes to strengthening participatory democracies and Euro-Atlantic integration in the countries of the Western Balkans. This project is implemented in six countries; we want to enhance the role of civil society organizations globally.
The Council of Ministers of BIH took the Ministry of Security-proposed decision to adopt Bosnia and Herzegovina 2021-2026 Strategy for Prevention and Countering Terrorism, drafted by an earlier formed work group.
It is an important strategic document, that confirms the commitment of all-level BIH institutions for the prevention and fights against terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization, which lead to terrorism, in accordance with international obligations of the state, member of the United Nations, Council of Europe, Organization for European Security and Cooperation, Antiterrorist Coalition, and a prospective EU candidate.
The Strategy defines aims, principles, and measures that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to take, as well as a time span for realization thereof in terms of prevention and fight against terrorism.
The Strategy aims to set up an all-level effective, coherent and sustainable mechanism for prevention and fights against terrorism, violent extremism, and radicalization, which lead to terrorism, and which should make our society resistant to these challenges.
A work group that drafted the Strategy will prepare an Implementation Action Plan and provide it to the Council of Ministers of BIH for adoption.
The Strategy implementation will take place at all levels of authority in accordance with constitutional and legal authorizations of BIH, Federation, Republika Srpska, and Brčko District institutions, under action plans that will follow the Strategy aims and measures, including through setting-up surveillance and evaluation models.
The Ministry of Security of BIH will form a Coordination Body to follow the Strategy implementation.
Also, Governments of the Federation of BIH, Republika Srpska, and Brčko District of BIH will develop their own action plans for the Strategy implementation, within 90 days from the Strategy adoption.
writes: Aleksandar Cekov
On 02.11.2022, MPs adopted the amendments to the laws on associations and political parties, which ban civil associations, foundations and political parties from using names, nicknames, pseudonyms that are related to fascism, Nazism, genocide, the Third Reich, etc.
These changes were initiated after a larger group of citizens held a protest on 07.10.2022 in Ohrid, N. Macedonia against the announced opening of the Bulgarian club “Boris III”. The citizens’ protest, according to the organizers and citizens, was directed against an association that bears the name of “a famous fascist statesman from the period of the Second World War (Tsar Boris III) , who was in close relations with Hitler” . Thus, a debate was opened in the public about the need to legally regulate the use of names, nicknames, pseudonyms that would cause negative feelings among a certain ethnic community or if the goals were in the direction of changing the constitutional order of the state.
Soon after, on 17.10.2022 at the initiative of the parliamentary group of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, the deputies in the Assembly of the Republic of N. Macedonia gave their support for the adoption of the Draft Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Associations and Foundations. As was explained by one of the petitioners of the initiative, these legal amendments aim to put an end to the opening of associations and foundations whose programs, goals, activities and actions are aimed at the violent demolition of the country’s constitutional order, at encouraging and calling for military aggression, as well as inciting national, racial, religious hatred or other intolerance, intolerance, hatred, genocide, extermination, spreading or supporting, inciting and endorsing fascism, Nazism, National Socialism and the Third Reich, as well as undertaking related activities with terrorism or activities contrary to the Constitution .
Taking into account that the new legal provisions additionally regulate the registration of civil organizations, defining the status of non-profit organizations as well as the method of their financing, in this blog amendments to the law are presented, in order to outline the impact of the legal changes on the enabling environment for civil society organizations.
Paragraphs 4 and 5 are added to Article 8, paragraph 3 of the Law on Associations and Foundations, which read:
“Names that on any basis in the past have been associated and cause racial, religious, national, ethnic and other intolerance, hatred, genocide, extremism, spreading or supporting fascism, Nazism, National Socialism and the Third Reich cannot be used. If such a name is included in the name of the association, approval is given by the Minister of Justice, upon the recommendation of a Commission that will be formed by the Minister of Justice with representatives of the Ministry of Culture, the Institute of National History, Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts and the Ministry of Justice.”
Furthermore, changes are foreseen in article 18, paragraph 2, paragraphs 2 and 3, where the following text is added:
“The goals of the association must not cause racial, religious, national, ethnic and other intolerance, intolerance, hatred, genocide, extermination, spread or support of fascism, Nazism, National Socialism and the Third Reich.”
“The activities that achieve the goals must not cause the above-mentioned intolerances”
In Article 31, paragraph 2, paragraphs 2 and 3, it is stipulated that the objectives of the association or foundation shall not cause any impatience, intolerance, hatred, as well as the spread of fascism.
The law also has a retroactive effect and applies to already registered associations and phonations. Namely, in the final provisions it is proposed that the associations and foundations that do not act according to the mentioned changes, cease to be valid by force of law and are deleted from the register after the Minister of Justice makes a decision.
The “RADKO” case
The opening and registration of the association “Tsar Boris the Third” has many similarities with the so-called “RADKO” case, when a debate was practically opened in public about the use of disputed (controversial) names and nicknames. Namely, “Radko” is the pseudonym that was used by a controversial figure in Macedonian history – Ivan (Vancho) Mihajlov, and was used as the name of a citizens’ association registered in the Republic of Macedonia.
In 2001, by decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia, the association “Radko”, which was registered in 2000, was abolished. The association contested the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of N. Macedonia before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which ruled in favor of the association stating that the right to free association was violated. Furthermore, the decision states that such tensions can occur, but that they are a product of pluralism, and the state is obliged to ensure tolerance between different societal groups.
Official Gazette of the Republic of Moldova no. 52/16.04.2022 available at: https://www.slvesnik.com.mk/Issues/623772ADC92FEE42A1DB496E1E190648.pdf
A Brief Overview of the EU Enlargement Methodology
Writes: Aleksandar Cekov, Program Manager at CRPM
One of the main objectives of the SMART Balkans project that has been set for the next 4 years is “… to contribute to the strengthening of participatory democracies in the Western Balkans…” in light of supporting the European integration processes in these countries, by strengthening the capacities of civil society organizations and their active involvement in the negotiation process. Thus, through the mechanisms for monitoring the reform process and the opportunity to give specific recommendations to public policymakers, civil society organizations can directly participate and thereby contribute to the transformation towards better and more sustainable societies where they operate.
Within the framework of the European integration process, as a context for the actions of civil society organizations, one of the key policies of the European Union is of course the enlargement policy, which, through its transformative power, has a major impact on the reform process in the countries, and thus on the work of civil organizations, that is, in defining their focus of action. The enlargement policy, on the other hand, was recently “revised”, i.e. in 2020, a new enlargement methodology was adopted , which should (have) given (en) new momentum to the enlargement, but also satisfy the demands of some EU countries, primarily France, which were dissatisfied with the achievements of the candidate countries especially those related to rule of law, the judiciary and corruption. The new methodology followed the postponement of the decision to start negotiations with S. Macedonia and Albania at the EU Council Summit in October 2019 which was received with great disappointment both by the countries and by many European diplomats.
Considering the influence of the EU enlargement policy in the countries of the Western Balkans, and thus the impact on the operation of civil society organizations, this text summarizes the key differences between the previous and the “new” enlargement policy of the EU.
What is the difference between the previous and the new enlargement methodology?
The previous so-called “classic model” of enlargement, which is described by Christopher Preston , is mainly based on the full adoption of the acquis (acquis communautaire ). However, the experiences from the previous rounds of negotiations have shown that the mere adoption and acceptance of EU legislation does not guarantee that the country has made quality progress, that is, that along with EU law, “European” values and norms have been adopted and respected. This is best seen in dealing with corruption, where corruption is not drastically reduced despite membership. Thus, the dissatisfaction of some countries with the quality of the reforms in the aspiring countries produced the so-called “enlargement fatigue”, which should be overcome, among other things, by changing the methodology of enlargement.
What does the new EU enlargement methodology envisage?
The new methodology is based on 4 principles: credibility; predictability, dynamism; greater political governance, and the chapters are organized into 6 thematic clusters: a whole area, which includes the rule of law; internal market; competitiveness, and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources, agriculture and cohesion and external relations .
This kind of organization is expected to contribute to greater dynamics of the process, and thus to speed up the process itself, if the countries implement the reforms on time. According to the then Commissioner for EU Enlargement, Oliver Varhey, the closure of a cluster could be completed in a year, as opposed to 6-8 years for the closure of a chapter, as it was before.
The process envisages a greater involvement of the EU in monitoring the process, but at the same time, it also includes its reversibility. This means that, if countries do not deliver quality and tangible results in the reform process, they may fall back in the negotiation process.
What does the negotiating framework for enlargement contain?
First of all, the European Union in the introductory statements emphasizes the importance of the enlargement policy, both for the member states, seen through the prism of transformative power in the aspiring countries, and for the EU member states, seen as a guarantor of stability, security and economic partnership in their neighborhood, that is, later within the common borders of the EU. In terms of the legal basis, the negotiation framework is based on Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union as well as on all relevant conclusions of the Council of the EU . Furthermore, it is also stated that the EU membership negotiations are based on Serbia’s own merits in terms of meeting the EU requirements, and the progress will be monitored continuously, for which the EU Council will be regularly informed .
The legal framework for combating corruption in the European Union is based on Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union , which establishes the competence of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to adopt directives to establish minimum rules for defining and sanctioning corruption .
The standards, on the other hand, in terms of the fight against corruption within the European Union, are mainly based on documents of international organizations, because in this area of the fight against corruption, it has least developed its own standards. The documents on which the anti-corruption standards are based are the following: the UN Convention against corruption, the Criminal Law Convention against Corruption, and the Civil Law Convention against Corruption, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1999, the OECD Convention against Bribery of Senior Public Officials in International Business Transactions of 1997, Council of Europe Recommendations on Codes of conduct for public officials, the UN Convention on Combating Transborder Organized Crime in 2000 and others. Of the documents that have been adopted and adopted by the European Union, it is worth mentioning the decision of the Commission on establishing an EU mechanism for periodic reporting on corruption from June 6, 2011.
 More information is available at https://smartbalkansproject.org/about-smart-balkans/
 Available at : < https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/enlargement-methodology_en.pdf
 Serbia’s negotiating framework with the EU is available at https://www.mpravde.gov.rs/sr/tekst/26543/pregovaracki-okvir-i-uvodna-izjava.php
On 25th October 2022, our Project Manager – Dajana Cvjetković was a guest on RTCG during their live daily show “Dnevna soba” where she shared with the Montenegirn public all updates about current activities within the project and announced first regional conference that will be held in Podgorica in December 2022.
Watch the whole video below:
Written by: Emina Husejinović
Almost daily phrases commonly used in all Western Balkans countries are regional cooperation, security approaches, structural reforms, reintegration, EU recommendations, democratic governance, and so on. What does it mean in reality?
Now three decades after the conflicts in the 90s, countries are still very much lost in procedures, integrations, reforms, and legislatures and without many great results. Tensions are everywhere with political leaders spurring up the tensions with usual national and ethnic divisions amongst people. It seems the only verified recipe for political triumph is to create even more divided societies with no clear perspective and will to prosper.
In the 2000s the idea was to develop close consultation through intensified dialogue leading to a unified approach to security and stability in the Western Balkans. Their ‘joint strategic approach’ identifies a common vision for the region based on self-sustaining stability, democratic and effective government, a useful free market economy, and closer integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures. The agreement implicitly recognizes a certain division of labor in the field of security-relevant reform, with the EU taking the lead in police reform and governance issues and NATO in military and defense reform.
Major problems remain with criminal networks which use these states as transit corridors for smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband. Frequent scandals suggest the widespread collusion of state and political authorities, including police, border guards, and customs officials, in organized crime. In addition to weaknesses in national laws, enforcement, and institutional infrastructure, the countries of the Western Balkans region are also limited in their cooperation with each other by a lack of structures and networks for joint action of a transnational nature, for example, through cooperative border management and police and judicial cooperation. The region has failed to develop common policies regarding visas, access rights, re-admission, and asylum, leaving loopholes that can be exploited by criminal groups.
This “mess” is not helpful in an already somewhat unenthusiastic climate where citizens constantly feel overlooked, neglected, and uninspired and each day more and more people decide to leave the Balkans and find their fortunes elsewhere (elsewhere being more prosperous countries, or to be more specific, Norway, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, and the list goes on and on).
Putting in context the countries of the Western Balkans excluding Croatia (now an EU member state), the rest of them struggle to embrace necessary reforms, especially in governance and stability adopting various strategies, and recommendations within the areas of military defense, judicial systems, police and educational reforms, etc.
Therefore, the international community’s role is inconclusive not only because it is inclined or obliged to push reforms not fully understood by the local populations, but also because it is motivated in large part by its own security concerns regarding a region so close to Europe. Security sector reform in the Western Balkans, then, is not so much the consensual product of a rational process of self-evaluation by national political elites as it is an instrument to serve the interests of external actors and agendas.