Governments in the WB still do not provide adequate information on their achievements

First results from PAR Monitor 2019/2020

In the policy development area, PAR Monitor 2019/2020 starts by focusing on the information available to citizens on governmental performance. Evidence shows that citizens of the Western Balkan countries, with the exception of BiH and to a lesser extent North Macedonia, do not have access to basic information about the work of their governments; the level of detail provided in annual governmental work reports is generally substandard to allow proper public scrutiny. Even weaker practices are shown in how understandable and result-oriented these reports are, as well as how regularly the public is informed on the implementation of central planning documents.

This PAR Monitor cycle enables the comparison of trends against the baseline results of the PAR Monitor for 2017/2018 and indicates slight progress at best in the WB generally. Though governments are a bit more diligent in reporting on their work and on the implementation of central planning documents, there has been little change in all aspects of reporting that concern the quality of data – they do not publish open or gender segregated data and performance information on annual results is scarce, for instance, which almost mirrors the baseline PAR Monitor results.

Despite this general picture, there are nevertheless some developments that have brought about notable changes in specific countries in the period between the two monitoring exercises. For example, Kosovo, which scored the best of all countries considered last time, has scored only one point in this round due to the problems in the formation of its government and the acting government’s failure to produce the annual report.

On the other hand, the largest positive developments were recorded in North Macedonia, improving from a very low score in the last round. In this cycle, it assumed the runner-up position of all countries considered due to the settling in of a new government after a period of political unrest, despite scoring zero points last round with no information published.

Apart from these more noteworthy changes, BiH, Serbia, and Montenegro have all recorded slight progress, though nothing too drastic. BiH has improved in terms of its government’s inclusion of gender-segregated data in the information issued about its activities. Serbia’s complete absence of regularity in its government’s publishing of reports on its work plan online has continued, though reporting on central planning documents has improved somewhat. The only notable improvement in Montenegro is regarding the regularity of its government’s annual reporting on its work.

Finally, there has been no change in Albania when it comes to how the government reports on its work. With governmental annual reports and information on the implementation of government-wide plans and strategies largely absent, Albania is at the lower end of regional scale once again.

Proactive informing from public authorities is still at a low level in the Western Balkans

First results from PAR Monitor 2019/2020

Worrying trends in the limited proactive information made available to citizens of the Western Balkans by their governments, indicated in the baseline PAR Monitor 2017/2018, have shown little change. Although some online information is easily accessible in most of the countries included, limited open data practices and transparency in annual reporting and budgets, as well as limited citizen-friendliness in the presentation of information, are still common.

The same as in the PAR Monitor 2017/2018, the information published by national authorities was assessed on a sample of seven institutions and against same key criteria which enables comparison of results over time: completeness of information, whether available information was up-to-date, the accessibility of information, and the citizen-friendliness of its presentation. Overall, countries scored fewer points for completeness of the information and if available information is updated – 33% of all points compared to 38% in the first monitoring cycle.

Some progress though is notable regarding accessibility and citizen friendliness in presenting information as compared – out of the total available points for accessibility and citizen friendliness, countries of the region managed to win 26% as compared to 17% in the baseline PAR Monitor.

Sample authorities generally fare better at providing more basic content, such as in providing information on scopes of work, contact information, organisational charts, and information on policy documents and legal acts. In almost all countries, however, there is a lack of transparent information as in the previous monitoring on budgets, annual reporting, but also on policy papers and analyses produced by authorities. Although with some improvements, particularly worrisome was the lack of information on cooperation with civil society and other external stakeholders. Despite the emergence of open data portals in the region, publishing of open datasets is still a major challenge.

In terms of individual country rankings, the only notable decline in results is for Albania, with sample authorities for the current PAR Monitor being significantly less proactive than those selected for the previous cycle. At the same time, the lack of proactive publishing of budgetary information come into prominence this time around.

Serbia is still among the top scorers but with slightly poorer results, bringing to light uneven practice of information provision by different authorities within the administration. The lack of annual reporting still represents one of the key issues, on the other hand, it is the only country in the region with basic budget information readily available online.

Sample authorities in BiH have a more user-oriented and coherent webpages, which is why BiH again ranks higher than many. Key weaknesses still relate to the lack of available budgetary information as well as limited information on policy papers, studies, and analyses.

In North Macedonia, the government has taken important steps toward remedying the past limitations in transparency and accountability, which have been translated into concrete measures, and resulted in slightly better scoring. There is still a lack of proactive publishing of budget information and annual reports by administration bodies, and information about cooperation with civil society and other external stakeholders is missing.

Comparing both monitoring cycles, results for Kosovo remain the same, with sample institutions once again being notably negligent when it comes to publishing budgetary information and annual reports – a common characteristic among many WB countries. It should be noted that during the monitoring period, Kosovo government was undergoing major structural changes, with the decreased number of ministries as the result (from 21 to 15) and major restructuring in terms of ministries’ jurisdiction.

Finally, this years’ monitoring in Montenegro have somewhat increased the country’s score, however with no major steps forward. This time, sample authorities were found to be provide less complete and less up-to-date information on scopes of work, but better at presenting their organisational structures.

New Public Administration Reform Strategy Must be Made According to Citizen’s Needs

We called on Ministry of Public Administration to make the process of drafting the Public Administration Reform Strategy in Montenegro 2021-2025 participatory and transparent, pointed out shortcomings of the current Strategy and made recommendations for future improvement of it

On what values and principles process of preparing a new Strategy should be based?

The planning process of Strategy, which should ensure the efficiency and openness of the state administration in the next five years, must begin by analysing the current situation in the process of public administration reform. Firstly, it’s necessary to look at those areas where there is no real progress, the most problematic areas, as well as those areas whose importance has been forgotten, neglected or underestimated.

Public administration reform must be thorough, and must not be formality which intention is to meet technical requirements of the European Union and other international and foreign organisations. Work on Public Administration Reform can’t be simulated, especially in those segments of reform that lack the political will to improve.

Public Administration Reform Strategy must not be based on questions, assumptions, future analyses, and must not be overloaded with indicators of success which is false presentation of improvement and must not justify its non-content by leaving key strategic issues to other strategies.

Who should be involved in the process of drafting the Strategy?

In order to map out causes of the issues in administration reform, we believe that it is important to encourage participation of all, especially individuals and groups who propose critical questions, provide innovative answers and solutions. Constructive proposals, as well as criticism, will make a greater contribution to the reforms than the parallel networks of supporters of the Ministry of Public Administration and the Government.

Also, one of the suggestions that we sent to the Ministry of Public Administration is consultation in timely manner and involvement of a wider range of institutions, not only the Ministry of Public Administration and, to a lesser extent, General Secretariat of Government and Ministry of Finance, in order to ensure that authorities understand the obligations that Strategy will stipulate. It is necessary to enable the participation of all interested sides, primarily citizens who are users of services, then institutions both at central and local level, employees/civil servants, civil society organisations and courts. It is important to ensure the participation of representatives of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms, Administrative Court, Agency for Prevention of Corruption as well as the Committee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration of the Parliament of Montenegro.

Where to find existing information, and what information are missing?

It’s necessary that all analytical materials produced within the process of implementation of the Strategy 2016-2020 (at least 11 analyses) are consolidated and publicly available, in order to be used for more thorough planning of aims and activities in the new strategy. Also, it’s necessary to determine what information is missing and what needs to be done. Thus, Report on external evaluation of the implementation of Strategy is not published, and Report on the implementation of the Action Plan for the implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy for the first half of 2019 is not adopted, as well as report for second half of 2019.

What should we focus on, what should be improved, what we should discuss?

Of special importance in the next cycle of public administration reform is to put a focus on the area of ​​administrative services, through the segment of further development of electronic services on the one hand, and improvement of traditional counter services on the other hand. Administrative services must be additionally connected to optimisation in a broader sense, organisation of work and rationalisation of a number of employees in the state administration. Also, it is necessary to envisage a systematic extension of the principles of employment stipulated by the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees to the entire public administration.

Regarding accountability, Public Administration Reform Strategy needs to ensure compliance with the Law on Free Access to Information in the area of ​​proactive disclosure of information and encourage expansion of the scope of published information beyond the legally required minimum.

In addition, we proposed opening of discussion on improving system of establishment, management and supervision of work of state owned enterprises and public institutions, as well as a reasonable, long-term and sustainable solving of “conflicts” between state and local government in terms of services and budget.

Finally, we suggested integration of the Public Administration Reform Strategy and strategies that are currently being developed or those which development will start during the drafting of the Strategy for the period 2021-2025 (Digital Transformation Strategy of Montenegro 2021 – 2025, Strategy on the Openness of Government of Montenegro 2021-2025 (…), the continuation of the Public Financial Management Reform Programme 2016-2020, as well as the new Public Administration Optimisation Plan).

Institute Alternative Team

Summit EU Western Balkan – With or Without (E)U?

Our public policy researcher Dina Bajramspahić spoke at the ’’Virtual meeting: Western Balkans Shadow Summit – With or Without EU’’, which was held through a moderated Zoom meeting on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 12:00, on the topic of EU enlargement and Western Balkans.

The aim of the conference meeting is to contribute to the visibility of civil society’s demands having in mind inability to express their opinions at the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit. On behalf of the Forum 2020, the conversation was organised by Documenta and CROSOL. Ivana Dragićević, N1, moderated the discussion.

Speakers at online meeting:

  • Emina Bošnjak, Sarajevo Open Centre (B&H);
  • Zoran Ivančić, Public Interest Advocacy Center (CPI) (B&H);
  • Sonja Stojanović Gajić, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BSCP) (Serbia);
  • Ivan Đurić, Political Youth Network (Serbia);
  • Vildan Drpljanin, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia);
  • Agon Maliqi, Sbunker (Kosovo);
  • Luca Jahier, European Economic and Social Committee;
  • Gordan Bosanac, CROSOL – Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity and
  • Vesna Teršelič, Documenta (Croatia).


Here are some of the key messages from online meeting:

  • Emina Bošnjak (B&H):

The European Union should send a message to B&H that its candidate status is possible and achievable. However, this will depend on the process of implementing all the concrete steps that B&H must undertake in regard to 14 priorities.

  • Vildan Drpljanin, (North Macedonia):

If a country invests 25 years in resolving single issue, and then there is a risk of opening a new one of that kind soon, perhaps the EU should foresee that this type of problem will continue in the Western Balkans. The EU should issue a declaration to support candidate countries and those yet to join on their European path.

  • Sonja Stojanović Gajić, (Serbia):

Democracy is a medicine that protects our environment and the collective public good. We can only convince our politicians to give up on their power in the long run, and that is where the EU needs to help us.

Political organisations and civil society organisations need to work more closely together. But the role of civil society should be, in the first place, to lower tensions against our government, to help and explain, and to support.

  • Agon Maliqi, (Kosovo):

The EU should not make promises that it cannot implement, it should be more realistic. Funds and energy should be invested in the protection of the space for civilian action and the media space.

  • Dina Bajramspahić, (Montenegro):

Without credibility, conditionality policies will not work. At this moment, we need to begin to work on a strategy of convincing European societies that enlargement is the common interest.

  • Ivan Đurić, (Serbia):

No one in Serbia is interested in this virtual summit. No message was sent to Serbia. The European Union for too long has given other the power to interpret by themselves what it thinks and says. EU voice is not heard, but only other people’s interpretations. Europe is not trying to enable for its voice to be heard. We are not lawyers of the European Union, we are advocates of European values.

  • Igor Kaleba, (B&H):

The Green New Deal is still too abstract for the citizens. In that context, environmental organisations tried to deal with thing that concern the everyday life of people, ie we wanted to show it through economics and money. Analyses show that the money, now being invested in coal, is a long term loss of money once B&H joins the EU, since that money should have been spent on harmonisation with European standards.

  • Gordan Bosanac, (Croatia):

The cooperation of CSOs with new social movements needs to be improved. The challenges to liberal democracy are global, and lessons from the Balkans in terms of tactically bringing together different actor can be of a great value at a higher level.

  • Marina Škrabalo, (Croatia):

At the period of the epidemic, the role of the media was highlighted. This opportunity should be used to create a new media perspective on the Balkans as it is a link to strengthen political influence. We need to reconsider the sharp distinction between the civil and political spheres, which makes it impossible for us to act in politics. One of the way of advocating should include the argument that topics such as the new Green Deal, digitalisation etc, should be embedded in EU enlargement processes, and especially the Human Security paradigm. This is what allows the EU to remain attractive and competitive in the 21st century.

  • Vesna Teršelič, (Croatia):

The attitude towards victims needs to be humanised. We live in Croatia, which, like other post-Yugoslav countries, failed to end World War II. Through advocacy of resolving the fate of the missing and more efficient prosecuting of war crimes, we have seen few success. The RECOM (Commission Tasked with Establishing the Facts about All Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violation Committed on the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia), should complement these mechanisms. We had the support of the European Union, but Croatia has always been ambivalent. But advocacy needs to continue, because moving closer to justice, building peace and trust is something that simply cannot be left out of focus. In the run-up to the celebration of the anniversary of the victory over fascism, we can see that we have lightly put on the sidelines the issues such as the holocaust, genocide against Roma, Serbs, especially in light of the growing exclusivity, antisemitism and xenophobia. It reminds us of the need to critically re-examine the past.

Connecting the process of building trust, cooperation towards the Berlin process and towards all countries that will take over the presidency after Croatia, the inclusion of the Western Balkans and as many citizens as possible in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Ways to encourage cooperation should be looked for. In Erasmus programs, we have a big problem that there are different funding opportunities for EU members, and different for non-EU countries, even for youth related programs. The door should be opened wide for cooperation among young people and in all other spheres, and civic initiatives should be more seriously supported.

  • Luca Jahier, (Italy):

European Economic and Social Committee has expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to postpone the opening of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia for the third time. They stressed the importance of civil society in the accession negotiations. The attention and commitment of the leaders of the Western Balkans and the European Union to this process needs to be increased. Prior to the Zagreb summit, they issued a statement signed by 19 organisations from the Western Balkans. Funding for civil society organisations must not be compromised by the COVID 19 pandemic, nor their role in the recovery process.

Transcript of individual parts of the conference:

Journalist: Question for Emina, Dina, Vesna Teršelič and Zoran Ivančević… There is constant saying that this is an important process for citizens, and that citizens will understand what Europe is and how much it means in their everyday life, but we always have that Eurosceptic side that increase or decline, depending on some internal events, so here we will start with Dina, considering that you in Montenegro leading considering this issue. How difficult is it for the non-governmental sector in a country like Montenegro?

Dina Bajramspahić: ‘’It is difficult, but in a slightly different way, because at the nominal level we have the majority support regarding the European integration of Montenegro. However, it is very difficult to encourage citizens to participate and be interested for concrete reforms. There are several reasons for this – on the one hand, we do not have a tradition of democratic steps that were the result of bottom-up initiatives, and on the other hand we have a fairly young administration that has been involved in the European integration process for fifteen years. We no longer remember what it is like to function without that external factor of influence and big eyes of the European Union, which observe us and follow what we do.

For us, for civil society, this situation of pessimism coming from the European Union in relation to enlargement is very aggravating circumstance, because although we have a very, very critical opinion on how our public administration works on reforms, how little achieves etc, we what to use this process to encourage the authorities with this attitude for best possible results. On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly clear that integration chance is not so credible and it is very far away, which makes it very difficult for reforms to happen. When the European Union for a very long time, for no reason, aggravated the position of Northern Macedonia and Albania by not opening negotiations, it had a very negative effect on the negotiations of Montenegro, because when political elites saw that out neighbors could not do something we did easily eight years ago, and something that has much symbolic meaning than real, it negatively affected their will to implement most difficult and complex reform, because the aim of what we now are supposed to do in Chapters 23 and 24 is to arbitrarily limit the power that political elites have. In order to do so, they must trust that at the end of that path there is an award, which now is not so.

Fact is that the political elites in my country have absolute power and that we do not have that critical mass of citizens which will put enough pressure on the government to implement all the most difficult reforms, and that is why we need much more credibility from the European Union than we are getting now. The fact that the word enlargement is being avoided at the Zagreb summit, although it is more than clear that this is of the great importance for us, shows that something that was previously covered up is no longer covered up and that forces which are opposed to enlargement, regardless of results and reforms, are increasing in European Union, an we use every possible opportunity to draw the attention of decision makers and the EU what consequences this leaves in our countries. It is very difficult because we have found ourselves in that dual role of criticising the situation in our country, with reason, but also we must frantically fight to be given a chance and hope that one day we can fulfil the tasks set for us.

Now I am speaking from the perspective of Montenegro. We have advocated a new methodology because Montenegro is in negotiations for eight years and they are not working properly, and it seems to us that the new methodology has many good elements, but of course implementation is something completely different, and we will see how this is going to work. We also advocated that we need much more ‘’carrots’’ and much more ‘’sticks’’ during the negotiation process, because at least in Montenegro, where no other option – geopolitical, has been considered seriously. So, we have been in the process for fifteen years, although there was ‘’flirting’’ by mentioning Russia and mentioning China, but these was never really an options that was seriously considered. So, the EU is something to strive for, but the EU has many more elements for influence in Montenegro in its hands than it has used so far, so that is something we have been asking for.


Answering the question on what civil society organisations can do and what would be the adequate role of CSO in the context of the problems Western Balkan countries are facing.

Dina Bajramspahić:

I don’t think there is an correct answer. The fact is that civil society organisations in our countries has been barren in unsuccessful in many ways, but, on the other hand, what we are facing is quite complex. Many EU countries have not found an answer for that either. I think we are fighting on too many fronts at the same time. On the one hand, we want to support reforms with a critical attitude towards the lack of results of the Government, and now we are trying to make pressure on decision-makers in the European Union and many member states who have established a negative attitude towards enlargement on many, in our opinion, wrong judgments, such as that the EU is already having a hard time functioning with twenty-seven member states, so they do not need new ones; basing the foreign policy of many countries in relation to this issue based on populist rhetoric in the public opinion of those member states etc, etc.… Along with all this we are under constant attacks by the authorities, and misunderstanding by many in the EU. So it’s a pretty complicated situation.

On the other hand, my country is quite small, half a million of citizens, and the chance that some completely new actors will be created there is not very possible. Those new one who keep showing generally have a problem with a lack of practical experience, since we have had the same political elites in power for thirty years. So it is quite pessimistic and I do not see a clear answer, but I believe in networking, I believe that together we can do much more and I believe in two important messages: one is that we must demand for the strictest possible process for Montenegro because we have to use this process for real transformation of society, but on the other hand, that actors in the EU must became more aware that their ambiguous messages, their occasional and fickle messages, cause great harm in our societies. If that perspective, the EU perspective, closes, or became too far away, we as a civil society will no longer have the tools in our hands to influence our authorities.

Let me remind you of just one example: when Commissioner Juncker was appointed in 2014, he made the famous statement that there would be no enlargement until 2025. He was criticised in the EU for saying that, because they though that 2025 is to early for Montenegro; and in Montenegro he was criticised because 2025 is too far away. Our authorities had no reason to refrain from authoritarian acts in 2014, ‘15 and ’16 if there will be no enlargement by 2025. We must look for a solution that will reconcile these two opposing issues – one is the quality of the process, and the other is the duration of the process, because unfortunately political elites think only in the short term. At best possible scenario, in four-year election cycles, and often much shorter, so the question is difficult and I do not have an optimistic answer.


Final remarks:

Dina Bajramspahić: I agree with what the speakers before me said. When we talk about the EU, it is important that everyone in the EU understands how important that word, which is already becoming a bit shabby, is – credibility, because without credibility, “conditionality policies” will not work, and without “conditionality policies” there will be no change made in our countries, at least not the key ones. So, (and at the EU there are friends who support enlargement) if there is a serious intention that, in case of transformation of our societies enlargement happens – now is the time for us to start working on a serious strategy to influence societies in the European Union, in order for them to understand why enlargement is of mutual interest, because it really is.
As for the region itself, I think that together as a region we have helped for the green light for Northern Macedonia and Albania to happen, and that is good for now, but we should jointly help Kosovo to achieve visa liberalisation, because I think that would be a real indicator that there is a European perspective of the region.

CSO Declaration on Zagreb EU – Western Balkans Summit

Institute Alternative is one of the signatories of the CSO Declaration on Zagreb EU – Western Balkans Summit. 

Over 90 leading civil society organisations from the Western Balkans, as well from the EU member states, working on issues of fundamental rights and the rule of law, democratic institutions, civic engagement, environmental protection, combating corruption and protection of migrants, adopted joint Declaration “With or Without (E)U” at their online shadow summit held on 5th may 2020. 

With this title, organisations do not send a message to oppose EU enlargement – just the opposite. Civil society is still ready to work on the fight for human rights, rule of law, fights against corruption, economic development of the Western Balkan countries, but they want to hear and see the decidedness of the EU itself. The EU has its strongest partner in civil society (often stronger than in the leaders of the Western Balkan countries) and it is important that EU leaders are committed to that partnership as well as to the enlargement process. 

In Declaration, civil society urge heads of states or governments of the European Union members states and of the Western Balkan countries to:

  • Intensify and accelerate the negotiation and implementation of the reforms in the process of aligning with the acquis communautaire, especially in the fields of fundamental rights and freedoms, the judiciary, the rule of law, and democratic institutions, 
  • Urge and support authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to promptly implement the 14 priorities of the European Commission’s Opinion published in May 2019, 
  • Start genuine cooperation with civil society organisations from Western Balkan countries in designing and implementing reforms, and support CSOs, both financially and politically in their efforts in supporting democracy and rule of law reforms, 
  • Include Western Balkan countries as beneficiaries in post-COVID-19 response programs targeting economic and social recovery, and in particular in the European Green New Deal plans.The role of civil society in the relief of the crisis should not be undermined, but instead facilitated and supported.

Civil society organisations also regretted that the Croatian presidency was not committed to working on the rule of law within the EU and emphasised that civil society in the Western Balkans wants to be involved in discussions about the future of Europe.

The whole text of the Declaration is available on this link.