All the countries of the Western Balkans are clear that their future lies in the European Union – and Westminster Foundation for Democracy is committed to helping them achieve eventual membership.
As the Berlin Process makes clear, steady progress towards this goal requires good governance, effective financial scrutiny and regional cooperation. WFD believes parliaments have a critical role to play in achieving all these. Strengthening their oversight abilities gives MPs a role in monitoring governments’ efforts to consolidate the rule of law and pursue public administration reform. Economic governance, too, will be more effective if parliaments can contribute its input to these changes.
To help the Western Balkans’ parliaments conduct this work more effectively, WFD has run programmes in the region since our establishment in 1992. We have worked with civil society organisations achieve reform on electoral processes and connected UK political parties with their regional counterparts to improve the representation of marginalised groups like youth and women. Most notably, WFD’s support in the region continues in the form of the Network for Parliamentary Committees for Economy, Finance and European integration (NPC). Founded in 2009, the network works to promote competitiveness and economic growth whilst assisting members with the process for European integration.
Bringing together representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, the NPC provides an outlet for best practice sharing with regards to essential parliamentary committees. To date, the network works actively with over 25 committees form across the six participant countries. To ensure the sustainability of cooperation in the region, the NPC and WFD are tailoring the work of the network to meet the expectations of citizens.
Years of work brokering relationships between the region’s parliaments have given WFD a unique degree of access to their leaderships, putting us in a strong position to take fresh initiatives forward. As the global financial crisis forced stringent austerity measures on the region, for example, WFD responded to the need for better financial and budgetary oversight by proposing the establishment of a body to scrutinise financial information and provide analysis to decision-makers. We hope the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in partnership with WFD will help spread best practice on financial oversight across the region – and we can contribute to its dissemination through the regional parliamentary network of committees.
As heads of state continue to pursue the Berlin Process with summits due in Paris and Rome, WFD hopes to assist by identifying more chances to use our existing relationships with parliaments and parties across the region in new ways, as funding opportunities arise.