South-eastern Europe

Focusing on the Western Balkans and Turkey

President of the European Parliament David Sassoli with the Speakers of the Western Balkans Parliaments posing for a family photo in a meeting room of the European Parliament in Brussels after signing a joint declaration
President of the European Parliament David Sassoli with the Speakers of the Western Balkans Parliaments at the Western Balkans Summit in Brussels © European Union (2020) - European Parliament
"The European Parliament is keen to step up its cooperation with the democratic institutions of the Balkan countries. There is so much that we can learn from one another by comparing notes on our parliamentary practices. This is why I would urge the region's parliamentarians to continue to make use of the European Parliament's democracy support instruments..."

- European Parliament President David Sassoli at the EU-Western Balkans summit on 6 May 2020
The European Parliament is particularly determined to reinforce democracy in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia), which it has selected collectively as a "priority region".

Parliament's efforts, which are led by MEPs Vladimír Bilčík (EPP, SK) and Tanja Fajon (S&D, SL), strengthen the capacities of partner parliaments, facilitate the parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislation in candidate and pre-candidate countries, and encourage parliamentary dialogue. All these efforts align with the European Parliament's own political objectives.

Parliament's activities, which are also aimed at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, consist of the following tools:

  • regional conferences, which establish a common regional denominator to ensure consistency with the objectives of the European Parliament and EU;
  • seminars, which focus on specific priority policies;
  • study visits, which introduce the work of the European Parliament to parliamentary staff and MPs;
  • fellowships, which provide parliamentary staff with intensive training in their field of competence;
  • conventions for democracy, which constitute an innovative democracy tool facilitating citizens' participation in the decision-making process.

Latest capacity-building activities

The following events have taken place since the 2019 elections to the European Parliament:
  • A group of newly elected Kosovar MPs met the EP Vice-President and the two DEG Lead Members in charge of democracy support for the Western Balkans, Vladimír Bilčík and Tanja Fajon.

    Mr Wieland underlined the importance of reconciliation for Kosovo as a condition for strengthening democracy in the country. On their part, Vladimír Bilčík and Tanja Fajon called on political parties in the country to reduce polarisation and seek to develop a culture of compromise.

    The virtual study visit paved the way for the establishment of a specific programme for the Assembly of Kosovo, aimed at developing its capacities in the areas of the fight against corruption and the establishment of a legislative framework for sustainable development.

    This was the second virtual meeting of newly elected Kosovar MPs with MEPs in two months.

  • The virtual study visit gave newly elected MPs from Kosovo the opportunity to discuss with MEPs, who deal with the country, about pressing current European and national issues. It was the first meeting between MEPs and MPs from Kosovo following the parliamentary elections of February 2021.

    The AFET Chair, David McAllister (EPP, DE), congratulated the Kosovar Members on their election and highlighted the importance of compromise between majority and opposition for the stabilization of Kosovo. He also reiterated his support for Kosovo's European path and the adoption of a visa liberalization regime. Moreover, he urged the Kosovar parliamentarians to reach out to the EU Member States, which have not recognized Kosovo yet, and establish direct dialogue with them.

    The EP EU-Kosovo SAPC Delegation, Romeo Franz (Greens/EFA, DE), highlighted the importance of more inclusive and trusted state institutions, good neighbourly relations with Serbia and the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

    The AFET Standing Rapporteur for Kosovo and DEG Member, Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel (Greens/EFA, DE) referred to the recent adoption with a large majority by the EP plenary of the 2019-2020 resolution on Kosovo, in which the MEPs from the main political groups expressed support for Kosovo's European path. She also welcomed Kosovo's European green agenda and its ambition to move from coal to renewable energy.

  • The ways to improve institutional accountability in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with a special focus on the State Parliament, were at the heart of the debates of this capacity development activity. Its participants were representatives of different Civil Society Organisations active in BiH as well as several MEPs, who deal closely with the country.

    In her introductory remarks, EP Vice-president Lívia Járóka (N-A, HU), referred to the crucial role parliamentary institutions play and to the complex challenges they face in their relations with the citizens. As she said, this is particularly relevant in BiH, where trust in parliamentary institutions is amongst the lowest in Europe.

    The civil society representatives also identified the lack of citizen's trust in institutions as a major challenge facing BiH. As they said, coherent and systematic reform agendas in the areas of the judiciary, election integrity, political party governance, public-sector corruption and citizen participation are necessary for the stabilization of BiH institutions.

    The participating MEPs asked for further online meetings with BiH stakeholders to be organised with a focus on strengthening the representative function of BiH institutions.

  • The visit gave the new MPs from North Macedonia the opportunity to become acquainted with the functioning and powers of the EP as well as its role in EU enlargement policy matters, in particular the EU-North Macedonian relations.

    The AFET Chair, David McAllister, congratulated North Macedonia on passing "the important test" of its parliamentary elections last year. He stressed the importance of the culture of compromise and urged the North Macedonian government and opposition MPs to become "the engine of constructive compromise" for the benefit of their country. He also encouraged the North Macedonians to continue with their cooperative and constructive approach to neighbourly relations in the region.

    The AFET Standing Rapporteur, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, also highlighted the importance of good neighbourly relations and called on both government and opposition in North Macedonia to back irreversibly the reforms demanded by the EU.

    The Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group (DEG) Lead Members for the Western Balkans, Vladimír Bilčík and Tanja Fajon, underlined the importance of DEG as a prominent actor of EP-North Macedonia relations. The North Macedonian MPs, who replied to them, focused on the importance of gender equality and female representation in leading parliamentary positions, the need for targeted measures to stop the brain drain, and the proper implementation of reforms adopted by Parliament. Vladimir Bilčík agreed that it is urgent to find solutions to these issues and assured the MPs that the EP and DEG stand ready to help.

  • Thirteen Members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia took part on 18 February in a virtual study visit. The aim of the visit was to familiarise MPs with no or little experience of the EU processes with the role and activities of the EP, including in the domain of the EU enlargement policy.

    The group comprised MPs of several political groups of the National Assembly of Serbia. The AFET Chairman, David McAllister, and the EP Standing Rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimír Bilčík, attended this event.

  • Parliamentary democratic innovations was the topic of an online conference aiming to help parliaments to prepare for future challenges. Its organisers were the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU global project to strengthen the capacity of parliaments (INTER PARES). It took place on 1, 8 and 10 December 2020 in the wake of the recent challenges to parliamentary democracies due to the covid-19 pandemic.

    The three-day conference brought together parliamentarians, members of the academic community and top researchers to provide policy makers and practitioners with a way forward in the debate about the evolution of representative democracy and its impact on parliaments.

    The conference was the first international forum to approach from a comparative perspective the impact of digital technologies on parliamentary democracy.

  • Strengthening institutional resilience and accountability in a time of public health crisis was the focus of two webinars on the fight against corruption during the Covid-19 pandemic. Both webinars were based on the recommendations of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) within the Council of Europe. 

    The first webinar focusing on the Western Balkans took place on 1 July, while the second one dealing with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine was held on 3 July. Participants were parliamentary staff from both regions.  

    The excessive use of fast track procedures and the lack of transparency of the legislative process, the lack of a code of conduct for MPs, as well as the absence of enforcement/oversight mechanisms for rules of conduct for MPs were identified as being at the root of challenges currently facing Western Balkan and Eastern Neighbourhood parliaments. The webinars highlighted concrete steps to tackle these institutional weaknesses.

  • The IT tools facilitating the EP work, including during the Covid-19 pandemic, took centre stage during an e-workshop on parliamentary IT tools, which was held on 19 and 22 June.

    The remote participation and voting systems, the IT tools facilitating the legislative procedure, the IT research tools, as well as the procedures for the Members' IT support were among the main topics of the workshop.

    The participants of the e-workshop were IT staff of the Western Balkan parliaments

  • The webinar examined the main tools that the EU put in place to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, both in the EU and in the Western Balkans. Staff from all parliaments in the Western Balkans participated in this activity, which took place on 29 June 2020.

    The main speaker of the webinar was Mr Samuel De Leimos Peixoto, an economist and member of the European Parliament President's cabinet. Mr De Leimos Peixoto formerly worked at the European Commission and the Bank of France.

  • Members of the European Parliament held an in camera discussion with renowned international experts about the prospects of constitutional reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina during an online roundtable, which took place on 28 January 2020. The aim of the roundtable was to identify solutions to the major constitutional challenges that prevent the country from consolidating its democratic institutions.

  • While stressing their commitment to the EU accession of the Western Balkan countries, MEPs urged their counterparts from the region to implement political and judicial reforms, which are prerequisites for their EU future.

    In his opening address, European Parliament President David Sassoli reiterated that the Western Balkans are a priority for the European Parliament and expressed his deep regret with the Council's decision not to start the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. He also announced that he would hold a Speakers' Summit with his counterparts from the region to pave the way for a successful EU-Western Balkans Summit in May 2020.

    European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi announced that the Commission would present new proposals to build upon the 2018 Credible Enlargement Strategy to address Member States' concerns regarding the enlargement process. He also pledged to continue to defend the Commission's proposal to open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania before the Summit.

    MPs from the Western Balkans expressed their disappointment in the Council's decision not to start the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. They also voiced their concerns about France's proposal to reform the enlargement methodology. According to the MPs, the proposals for a new methodology would lead to uncertainties concerning the Western Balkans' prospects of joining the European Union.

    Western Balkan MPs represented twelve different political groups. In total, 36 MEPs also attended the event, including Parliament's President, three Vice-Presidents, Standing Rapporteurs and Chairs of Delegations with the Balkans. Over 15 journalists, including from the region's main newspapers and TV channels, covered the event.

  • European Parliament staff shared their best practices in human resources management with their parliamentary colleagues from the Western Balkans and Turkey.

    During their study visit to the European Parliament's premises in Brussels, parliamentary staff from the region learned about:

    • Parliament's tools ensuring a separation between party politics and the administration,
    • policies to ensure diversity and combat harassment, and
    • the role and work of the European Parliament's Staff Committee.

    A specific session focused on managing and resolving staff conflicts. Another examined training programmes and learning strategies for staff.

Conferences, seminars and round tables (2014-2019)

MEPs and elected representatives from the Western Balkans and Turkey gather at these events to discuss issues and exchange advice and experiences.

Depending on the topic at hand, outside speakers may be asked to join, along with members of civil society, media representatives and stakeholders.
  • Photo of the building of the Parliament of Albania (Kuvendi) © European Union (2019) - European Parliament
    The Parliament of Albania © European Union (2019) - European Parliament

    The first parliament-specific capacity building seminar of 2019 will focus on the IT tools, which can facilitate the work of a parliament's secretariat. It will take place in the Parliament of Albania on 6 March 2019.

    The Parliament of Albania chose the topic of the seminar and the Pre-Accession Actions Unit, in close cooperation with the Informatics Unit, drew up its programme. Topics include the guidelines for the development of a digital library and research services of the European Parliament; IT tools at the service of law making in the European Parliament; developing technology infrastructure to support transparency; and increasing citizen initiative through technology.

    A study visit in Brussels for IT staff of the Parliament of Albania may be organised as a follow-up to the seminar. Parliament-specific capacity building activities for each of the other Western Balkan countries have also been scheduled. They will take place between March and July of 2019 as part of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group (DEG) support programme for the pre-accession countries' parliaments.

  • Photo of a poster advertising the conference, showing a European Parliament press point where President Tajani is being interviewed

    MPs from the Western Balkan countries as well as Georgia and Ukraine discussed with high-profile MEPs about how to develop a comprehensive parliamentary communication strategy during a conference in the EP premises in Brussels on 29 January 2019.

    Communicating with the citizens has long been a primary concern of the European institutions, with the aim of fostering trust in the European project. The European Parliament has an extensive experience and a wealth of knowledge in this field. The conference therefore sought to introduce participants to the European Parliament communication strategy with the aim to provide them with best practices, which could be replicated in their own parliaments.

    It focused, among others, on the EP communication policy, the EP communication strategy for the 2019 EP elections, ways for a parliament to monitor public opinion, fighting disinformation, the services the EP provides to media professionals and the direct channels of communication between the EP and the Europeans.The conference was part of the European Parliament Support Programme for the parliaments of the pre-accession countries.

    lt was organised by the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group (DEG), presided by the Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Chair of the Committee on Development (DEVE).

    MEP Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK), Chair of the AFET Working Group on the Western Balkans and of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) and DEG Lead Member for the pre-accession countries, chaired the conference.

  • MPs from the Western Balkans were given a unique opportunity to meet high-profile MEPs, including the standing rapporteurs from the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) for the countries of the region, and the relevant European Parliament delegation chairs.

    Participants discussed the mutual progress and expectations of the region as a whole, including cross-border cooperation, connectivity and best practices.

    Building on the success of the first such event in November 2017, the round table spurred extensive and frank discussions, especially during the closed-door session, which focused on the implementation of reforms and the improvement of political culture in the Western Balkans.

  • A view of the meeting room, with several large screens in the foreground focusing on the speaker and participants seated in a circle
    Focusing on speakers in Sofia - © European Union (2018) - European Parliament

    The European Parliament and the National Assembly of Bulgaria co-organised an inter-parliamentary conference to review the outcome of the EU-Western Balkans Summit (held in Sofia, on 17 May 2018) and the Berlin Process Summit (held in London, 9-10 July 2018), including the Sofia Priority Agenda.

    As a staunch advocate of the EU's enlargement policy, the European Parliament also supports regional cooperation initiatives in the Western Balkans. This conference, held in Sofia on 5 October 2018, focused on the parliamentary aspects of these initiatives.

    While the conference noted the preparedness and reforms of different countries in the region, the focus was not on individual countries' progress. Instead, participants examined the common challenges facing the region, cross-border cooperation and regional institutions and instruments.

    The role of national parliaments and the European Parliament in strengthening the European perspective of the Western Balkans was the focus of intense debate.

    MPs from countries that recently joined the EU shared their experiences of the accession process.

    MEP Lívia Járóka, Vice-President of the European Parliament (EPP, HU), presented a keynote speech in which she underscored the importance of integrating minorities and fighting against poverty.

    MEPs Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK), Julie Ward (S&D, UK) and Georgi Pirinski (S&D, BG) also attended the conference.

  • ...
    ...

    The European Parliament and its budgetary control powers can be a role model for pre-accession parliaments: this was one of the main conclusions of a conference on the sound management of EU funds.

    During the conference, which took place in Brussels on 11 and 12 July 2018, MEPs presented their counterparts from the Western Balkans with an overview of the activities of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the European Parliament's discharge procedure.

    The Chair of the Budgetary Control Committee stressed the importance of MEPs' scrutiny of EU spending, as well as the need to guarantee transparency for EU taxpayers.

    The importance of audits and standards

    MEPs also underlined the importance of bodies such as the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in ensuring that EU funds are well managed and that fraud is properly combatted. MEPs also urged their counterparts to ensure that they also correctly audit the EU funds invested in their countries.

    Finally, MEPs highlighted the need to implement EU standards and regional cooperation as a prerequisite for the countries to join the EU.

    Following up on the Skopje conference

    This conference, which was organised in cooperation with the Committee on Budgetary Control, served as a follow-up to another, focusing on the European Parliament's budgetary powers and procedures and held in Skopje on 26 February 2018.

  • Group photo of participants in the 14-15 June 2018 inter-parliamentary conference on upholding the freedom of expression
    Group photo from inter-parliamentary conference - Photo provided courtesy of the Parliament of Montenegro

    The importance of respecting freedom of expression in the context of EU accession negotiations was underlined by all MEPs during an interparliamentary conference hosted in Prague by the Czech Chamber of Deputies on 14 and 15 June 2018.

    The conference, organised in cooperation with the Czech Parliament, followed a series of assassinations of journalists, both in the EU and in the Western Balkans.

    MEPs' support for the free press

    MEPs insisted on the importance of independent media in the political debate. At a moment of fake news and disinformation, MEPs defended quality journalism and contested the damaging conflation of investigative journalism and partisan opinion.

    They supported the implementation of the recent recommendations by the Council of Europe on media pluralism and diversity of media content, and discussed how parliamentarians can support and monitor appropriate legislation.

    MEPs also unequivocally condemned the attitude of some leading politicians who attack the press, insisting on the state's responsibility to ensure that journalists and whistle-blowers are protected.

    Lively participation

    The European Parliament delegation, drawn from its Committees on Culture and Education, on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and on Foreign Affairs, included the following MEPs:

    • Barbara Spinelli (GUE, IT),
    • Michaela Šojdrová (EPP, CZ),
    • Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP, CZ)
    • Eleni Theocharous (ECR, CY) and
    • Jiří Payne (EFD, CZ).

    Conference participants also included MPs from the Czech Republic and the six Western Balkan countries, as well as investigative journalists, media activists and academics.

    The result was a lively - and at times heated - debate.

  • Podium with seated speakers at the interparliamentary conference at the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia
    Participants on podium in Serbia © European Union (2018) - European Parliament

    The Pre-Accession Instrument on Rural Development (IPARD) was the focus of an interparliamentary conference held in the premises of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia on 13 April 2018.

    The conference, which brought together MEPs and MPs from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, provided an overview of the instrument's three axes:

    • improving market efficiency and implementing Community standards,
    • preparatory actions for implementation of the agro-environmental measures,
    • development of the rural economy.

    Discussions also focused on the lessons learnt since the instrument was established, as well as its future prospects.

    MEPs detail the challenges

    The MEPs told their counterparts from south-eastern Europe that setting-up the necessary structures to administer CAP payments involves considerable human and administrative resources. Aligning support systems is therefore important to ensure that farmers are well prepared and informed about the EU's systems and schemes.

    Although the EU offers support and financial assistance to tackle these challenges, MEPs insisted that the primary responsibility remains with the beneficiary countries. Local MPs, they stressed, should strengthen their parliamentary oversight and should monitor and audit the results and the fight against corruption.

    MEPs and co-organisers

    The European Parliament delegation included the following MEPs:
    • Czesław Siekierski (EPP, PL),
    • Maria Gabriela Zoană (S&D, RO),
    • Ivari Padar (S&D, ET),
    • Angel Dzhambazki (ECR, BG) and
    • Eleni Theocharous (ECR, CY).

    The conference was organised in cooperation with the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

  • Exterior view of the Assembly of the former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia, with streets in foreground
    Assembly of the former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia - Image used under license of Shutterstock.com

    The role of the European Parliament in the EU budgetary procedure was the focus of this conference, held in the premises of the Assembly of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    The event brought together MEPs and MPs from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey.

    Annual and multi-annual budgets under scrutiny

    MEPs explained in detail the negotiations and procedures for the adoption of the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), focusing on the current debates concerning Brexit's impact on the next MFF.

    The ensuing discussion centred on financing policies that are of the most interest to the pre-accession countries, such as the pre-accession funds, agriculture support and cohesion funds.

    MEPs also presented the annual budgetary procedure, focusing on the role of the European Parliament in the adoption of the EU budget.

    MEPs' scrutiny of the implementation of the EU budget and the upcoming European Parliament report on external financial instruments were also discussed in detail.

    The MEPs urged their counterparts to follow the example of the European Parliament in their respective parliaments' budgetary procedures and work to "translate" their political priorities in their national budgets.

    MEPs and co-organisers

    The European Parliament delegation included the following Members:

    • Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL),
    • John Howarth (S&D, UK),
    • Angel Dzhambazki (ECR, BG),
    • Igor Šoltes (Greens/EFA, SI) and
    • André Elissen (ENF, NL).

    The conference was organised in cooperation with the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Budgets.

  • ...
    ...
    ...
    ...

    This high-level round table was the first event of its kind, involving MEPs and Western Balkan MPs, young political leaders and MPs from EU national parliaments.

    The need to implement reforms and change the political culture in the region, in particular within parliaments, was a recurrent theme.

    MEPs attending the event, held in Brussels on 20 and 21 November 2017, stressed that:

    • Enlargement is also in the interest of the EU and not just of the Western Balkans.
    • An assessment of reforms should be based on genuine implementation, in particular when it comes to the rule of law, the independence of the media and the judiciary, and related issues.
    • A democratic political culture includes the opposition's substantive contribution to public debate, as well as the transparency of the executive's activities.
    • There should be a real accountability and scrutiny of the executive. This need exists despite many parliaments' underlying lack of political will to become autonomous from the executive branch of power.
    • Parliaments must ensure a real consultation with civil society.

    The event was chaired by MEPs Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK) and Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT) on the first day, and by David McAllister (EPP, DE) on the second day.

    In addition to 10 MEPs, participants included 22 MPs from all six Western Balkan parliaments.

    The high-level round table was organised in cooperation with the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Human Rights and delegations for relations with the parliaments of the Western Balkans.

  • The capacity of a state administration to assume EU membership obligations is a key criterion for candidate countries. Adequate reforms of public administration may therefore be a condition to joining the EU.

    These were the main messages MEPs transmitted to their counterparts from the Western Balkans and Turkey during a conference on public administration, held in Danilovgrad (Montenegro).

    MEPs also emphasised the importance of accountability and of audits in public administrations, the de-politicisation and professionalisation of civil servants, and the development of e-services to improve efficiency and reduce corruption.

    More than 30 MPs from the parliaments of the pre-accession countries participated.

    They were joined by the following MEPs:

    • Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL), Vice-President of the European Parliament,
    • David Martin (S&D, UK), Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee,
    • Alojz Peterle (EPP, SL),
    • Tamás Meszerics (Greens/EFA, HU) and
    • Fabio Massimo Castaldo (EFDD, IT).

    Representatives of the European Commission, the European Union's Delegation to Montenegro, international organisations (OECD/SIGMA, Regional Anticorruption Initiative) and non-governmental organisations (Transparency International) also attended.

  • ...
    ...

    Held in Brussels, this seminar focused on all phases of the EU legislative cycle, with particular attention on the role of committees in empowering parliaments vis-à-vis governments.

    MEPs stressed that no country can maintain a sustainable democratic and political development without an efficient, transparent and independent parliament. All political forces, they emphasised, should play an active part in the parliamentary decision-making process.

    MEPs also argued that a sound legislative process is one that seeks to involve citizens as much as possible through consultation, transparency (roll-call votes, web-streaming of meetings, making all documents available on the internet) and an enhanced media presence, underpinned by efficient communication tools.

    The seminar was attended by MPs from more than 20 different countries around the world (in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America).

    These MPs exchanged views with several high-profile MEPs, including

    • European Parliament Vice-Presidents Mairead McGuinness (EPP, IE), Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL), Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP, ES), and Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D, RO),
    • Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, SE), Chair of the Petitions Committee, and
    • Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT), Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee.

  • ...
    ...

    The need to fight corruption more vigorously and the mismanagement of public funds in public procurement in the enlargement region were repeatedly emphasised by MEPs during this conference on public procurement, held in Brussels on 2 and 3 May 2017.

    During the event, MEPs also presented their counterparts from the region with an overview of the EU Public Procurement Package and the European Parliament's input and scrutiny of public procurement.

    Participants included seven MEPs:

    • Marc Tarabella (S&D, BE), chairing the event on 2 May,
    • Monica Macovei (ALDE, RO ), chairing the event on 3 May,
    • Igor Šoltes (Greens, SI),
    • Helmut Scholz (GUE, DE),
    • Martina Dlabajová (ALDE, CZ),
    • Julia Pitera (EPP, PL),
    • Arndt Kohn (S&D, DE).

    Five pre-accession countries' parliaments sent a total of 17 MPs to the event.

    Due to the political situation in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, their parliaments were represented by civil servants.

    Other speakers included Member of the Court of Auditors Hans Gustaf Wessberg and representatives from the European Commission (OLAF, DG GROW and TRADE, with support by DG NEAR).

    The conference was organised in cooperation with the European Parliament's Committees on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on Budgetary Control, on International Trade and on Foreign Affairs.

  • Gender gaps in payment and pensions, work-life balance, women's representation in top management and boards, and their participation in science and engineering professions were the main themes of this conference, which took place in Brussels on 8 and 9 March 2017 in the framework of International Women's Day.

    The conference complemented one organised by the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW), titled "Women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work".

    Chaired by MEP Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D, LT), Chair of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, the conference was attended by delegations from Ukraine, Moldova, Tunisia, Morocco, Georgia and the pre-accession countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.

    Notable other participants included:

    • European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT),
    • European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová,
    • Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness (EPP, IE), and
    • Chair of the European Parliament's Sub-Committee on Human Rights, Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT).

  • Participants on the podium at the conference, held in Pristina
    Participants on the podium © European Union (2017) - European Parliament

    The role of parliaments in strategic choices on European-wide infrastructure and connections, and on their financing and implementation, lay at the heart of debates during a conference on trans-European networks held in Pristina on 2 and 3 March 2017.

    The success of this process remains one of the EU's major political priorities and will shape the European integration process.

    MPs from the region and MEPs discussed their experiences and achievements in the area of transport, energy and telecommunications, and the role of parliaments in pushing for sustainable and ecological policy choices.

    The parliamentarians addressed the issues of interoperability, consumers' rights, multi-modal transport projects, mobile roaming costs, and ways of modifying incompatible national standards.

    To attract investment, MEPs highlighted the importance of a conducive legal framework based on the rule of law, with legal and judicial clarity. The importance of countries' willingness to cooperate with regional neighbours and the role of soft connectivity reform measures were also underlined.

    Participants and organisers

    The conference was hosted by the Assembly of Kosovo. Delegations from five enlargement countries from the Western Balkans and Turkey attended.

    Participants included 18 MPs as well as the following MEPs:

    • Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR),
    • Isabella De Monte (S&D, IT),
    • Knut Fleckenstein (S&D, DE),
    • Jozo Radoš (ALDE, HR) and
    • Eleni Theocharous (ECR, CY).

    The event was organised in cooperation with the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament's Committees on Industry, Research and Energy and on Transport and Tourism, and the Regional Cooperation Council.

  • ...
    ...

    The role of the local and regional authorities in the EU enlargement process was at the centre of this conference, held in Brussels.

    The conference focused on

    • the European Parliament's support in strengthening institutional and administrative capacities at local and regional level,
    • ways to enhance the role of local and regional authorities in the EU enlargement process,
    • EU regional policy,
    • the role of the Committee of the Regions.

    MPs from the region exchanged views with several MEPs about experiences and achievements of the EU regional policy, its link to the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) II, and the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region. Participants gained an understanding of the EU regional policy's significant contribution to the European project.

    Participants and organisers

    The conference was attended by 20 MPs from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, as well as the following MEPs:

    • Iskra Mihaylova (ALDE, BG), Chair of the Committee on Regional Development,
    • Alojz Peterle (EPP, SL),
    • Franc Bogovič (EPP, SL),
    • Victor Boştinaru (S&D, RO),
    • Tonino Picula (S&D, HR),
    • Jens Nilsson (S&D, SE),
    • Ivan Jakovčić (ALDE, HR) and
    • Terry Reintke (Greens, DE).

    This event was organised in cooperation with the Committee on Regional Development and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

  • ...
    ...
    ...

    The challenges facing people with disabilities in both the EU and the enlargement region - as well as the solutions for overcoming these challenges - formed the focus of this conference, organised in Brussels on 28-29 November 2016.

    Experience and focus

    Several MEPs highlighted the role of the European Parliament in promoting and enhancing policies of non-discrimination in favour of people with disabilities.

    MEPs stressed the need to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    In particular, they underlined the importance of promoting non-discriminatory policies and of enhancing access to employment, education, health care, social services and the political decision-making process.

    MEPs called for mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities and for developing barrier-free access to transport services. In addition, they focused on gender issues related to disability and its relation to poverty and social exclusion.

    Finally, MEPs exchanged experiences with the MPs from the enlargement region's national parliaments on promoting the social and economic participation of persons with disabilities via EU-funded programs.

    Participants

    The conference, chaired by MEP Helga Stevens (ECR, BE), was also attended by

    • MEP Rosa Estaràs Ferragut (EPP, ES),
    • MEP Ádám Kósa (EPP, HU),
    • MEP Marek Plura (EPP, PL),
    • MEP Olga Sehlanová (S&D, CS),
    • MEP Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, SE),
    • MEP Kostadinka Kuneva (GUE/NGL, EL) and
    • 17 MPs from 5 national parliaments.

  • View of the Assembly Hall in the the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in Belgrade
    National Assembly of Serbia © 2016 National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia

    Aligning the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) with the EU enlargement strategy, enhancing the role of national parliaments in the national budget cycle and monitoring reform results were some of the themes of the conference, hosted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in Belgrade.

    MEPs stressed the importance of using EU funds efficiently, the role of the European Parliament in the IPA II strategy and implementation, and regional and cross-border cooperation involving IPA and structural funds.

    Representatives from the Serbian government and civil society gave examples of implementation and monitoring in practice.

    MEPs also stressed the importance of enhancing the administrative and institutional capacities of the countries in the region to decentralise the management structures introduced by IPA II.

    They also asked for improved access to information on IPA benefits, transparency and efficiency in managing IPA funds, and for stakeholders to be significantly involved in the pre-accession process.

    Participants

    The conference was co-chaired by MP Marinika Tepić, Chair of the Committee on European Integration of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, MEP Derek Vaughan (S&D, UK), Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control, and Franc Bogovič (EPP, SL).

    MEPs Jan Olbrycht, (EPP, PL) and Terry Reintke (Greens/EFA, DE) also participated.

    Szabolcs Fazakas, Member of the European Court of Auditors, presented the Court's special report on the efficiency of IPA fund management.

    Michael Davenport, Head of the EU Delegation in Belgrade, delivered the opening speech.

  • ...
    ...
    ...

    Debates during this conference, held in Brussels, focused on the adoption of a holistic approach to migration, asylum and borders; the role of parliaments in providing a rapid response to emergencies in this field; and the situation on the EU's borders with the enlargement countries.

    MEPs presented the existing EU acquis on asylum and immigration to their national counterparts.

    They also emphasised the need to further improve control of the EU's external borders, establish a functioning asylum system, better organise legal migration, and create a global partnership for migration and development.

    MEPs added, however, that these measures should comply with the EU Treaties, which call for solidarity and a fair division of responsibility.

    Participants

    Participants included 11 MEPs and 22 high-profile national MPs, including 2 vice-presidents and 2 committee chairs.

    MEPs present were

    • European Parliament Vice-President Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL),
    • LIBE Vice-Chair Iliana Iotova (S&D, BG),
    • Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP, GR),
    • Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK),
    • Eliza Vozemberg (EPP, GR),
    • Ana Gomes (S&D, PT),
    • Angel Dzhambazki (ECR, BG),
    • Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, SE),
    • Laura Ferrara (EFD, IT),
    • Ska Keller (The Greens/EFA, DE) and
    • Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE, FR).

    The European Commission was represented by Olivier Onidi, Deputy Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs, and FRONTEX by Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

  • ...
    ...
    ...
    ...

    As the major political parties in south-eastern Europe are often associated with wider European political parties, this conference, held in Brussels, examined how these affiliations can bring the parties in enlargement countries closer to the EU.

    In their speeches, MEPs called upon national MPs to build consensus around pro-European paths regardless of political affiliations, to establish a political dialogue between the opposition and government, and to include civil society in policy-making.

    MEPs also underlined the importance of transparency and accountability, parliamentary oversight of the government, and a stronger relationship between the national parliaments and citizens.

    Participants and organisers

    Participants included 18 MPs from the region's national parliaments and 12 MEPs.

    MEPs included:

    • Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL),
    • Gabi Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE),
    • Tanja Fajon (S&D, SI),
    • Helga Stevens (ECR, BE),
    • Kati Piri (S&D, NL),
    • Ramón Jáuregui Atondo (S&D, ES),
    • Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA, DE),
    • György Schöpflin (EPP, HU) and
    • Andrej Plenkovic (EPP, HR).

    The conference was organised in cooperation with the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO).

  • Seated beside European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, MEP MEPs Marijana Petir turns around in her chair to speak with the organisers of the seminar
    MEPs Marijana Petir (left) and European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan (right) and © European Union (2015) - European Parliament

    Held in Brussels, this seminar on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy included individual sessions devoted to the following topics:

    • the role of the European Parliament in the adoption of the CAP reform,
    • the background and the guiding principles of the CAP reform,
    • direct payments,
    • single Common Market Organisation,
    • rural development,
    • horizontal regulation for financing, managing and monitoring the CAP,
    • implementation of the CAP reform and prospects for the future.

  • Photo of the podium with the name tags of the EU Ombudsman and other speakers
    Podium of the seminar © European Union (2015) - European Parliament

    Held in Brussels, this seminar on the role of the ombudsman included a keynote speech by European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, as well as individual sessions devoted to

    • the EU institutions' accountability and the ombudsman's role,
    • tools and resources for an efficient ombudsman institution,
    • the European Network of Ombudsmen and its evolution,
    • reaching out to civil society and the general public,
    • investigating malpractices: different institutions, complementary roles,
    • parliamentary oversight of the implementation of the law and the ombudsman's input,
    • developing good administrative behaviour in the reform process towards EU.

  • Held in Sarajevo, this conference on economic governance and job creation included points on the following topics:

    • structural reforms - bottlenecks, priorities and perspectives for foreign direct investment,
    • sound foundations: achieving public sector reform while reducing employment impact,
    • convergence towards EU standards in fiscal and taxation policies.

  • The relations between legislators and public broadcasters must improve, while also safeguarding the independence of the media: participants at this conference held at the Croatian parliament agreed on this principal precondition for better public service media.

    To guarantee media freedom, MEPs called on their counterparts from the enlargement region to apply transparent, merit-based procedures when appointing the directors of public media and members of management boards, media councils and regulatory bodies.

    MEPs also asked that public service journalists be shielded from pressure by governments, economic lobbies and other interest groups.

    Enlargement parliamentarians were requested to earmark sufficient resources for this, and to enable public services broadcasters to take advantage of new digital technologies. This would also bring the benefits of modern audio-visual services to the general public.

    Finally, MEPs reaffirmed the importance of a dual system in which public service and commercial broadcasters co-exist.

    Participants and organisers

    Conference participants included 16 MPs from the countries of the region.

    The European Parliament delegation was composed of the following MEPs:

    • Eleni Theocharous (EPP, CY),
    • Marijana Petir (EPP, HR) and
    • Ruža Tomašić (ECR, HR).

    In addition, 18 public service media representatives from the enlargement region also attended.

    The European Broadcasting Union, the Parliament of Croatia and Croatian Radiotelevision, the Croatian public broadcasting company, co-organised the event.

  • View of speakers on the podium, including MEPs Amjad Bashir, Alojz Peterle, Mady Delvaux, Juan Fernando López Aguilar and Emil Radev, with a slide from a presentation projected behind them
    MEPs Amjad Bashir, Alojz Peterle, Mady Delvaux, Juan Fernando López Aguilar and Emil Radev on the podium © European Union (2015) - European Parliament

    The issues of safeguarding the independence of the judiciary and modernising the judicial systems in the Western Balkans and Turkey were the focus of debates during a conference on judicial reforms held in Budva (Montenegro) on 18 and 19 June 2015.

    As the MEPs stressed, progress has been made in some enlargement countries regarding the level of alignment with the EU legislative acquis. The relevant legislation, however, is still not fully implemented.

    In addition, there remains open or covert political pressure on the justice system, not least through public statements or critical verdicts, including by MPs. Career reassignments and the dismissals of judges and prosecutors are often politically motivated.

    Ways to reform


    MEPs underlined that the countries' political authorities - and MPs in particular - should clearly demonstrate their full support for the independence of judges and prosecutors.

    When embarking on major justice reforms, a cross party consensus is necessary, MEPs added.

    According to MEPs participating, modernising the judicial systems can be achieved with greater investment, which will guarantee more and better training, the use of e-justice tools and infrastructure upgrades.

    Conference participants agreed that for justice reforms to be successful, they must benefit from sufficient financial means.

    Participants and organisers

    The conference was co-chaired by MEP Mady Delvaux, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs, and MP Snežana Jonica, Vice-Chair of the Parliament of Montenegro's Committee on the Political System, the Judiciary and the Administration.

    Other attendees included MEPs Alojs Peterle (EPP, SL), Emil Radev (EPP, BG), Amjad Bashir (ECR, UK) and Juan Fernando López Aguilar (NI, ES), as well as Josip Kregar, Chair of the Croatian parliament's Judiciary Committee.
     
    The conference was organised in cooperation with the European Parliament's Committees on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and on Foreign Affairs, as well as the Parliament of Montenegro.

  • ...
    ...
    ...

    The political culture of the European Parliament and of EU Member States' parliaments can provide several much-needed best practices for the parliaments of the enlargement countries. This was one of the participants' conclusions during the interparliamentary seminar on developing political culture and dialogue held in Brussels.

    MEPs proposed several tools to their national counterparts for avoiding confrontational stand-offs and, more importantly, striking a balance between reinforcing an effective government backed by a parliamentary majority and fully respecting the rights of the opposition.

    Constructive opposition

    In addition, MEPs explained the political culture in the European Parliament and in EU national parliaments, which combines critical support and constructive opposition in its legislative and supervisory roles.

    They defined it as political culture based on a commitment to compromise, involving self-limits by the majority and a strong participation of the opposition.

    MEPs emphasised that citizens expect the opposition to play a full role in parliaments. Boycotting parliament is in no way a democratically legitimate stance.

    They also suggested that proper rules of procedure could facilitate cooperation between political groups, while maintaining the necessary space for political confrontation and debate.

    Participants

    Ranko Krivokapić, President of the Parliament of Montenegro, several Deputy Speakers and leaders of political groups, and MPs from the parliaments of all enlargement countries participated.

    The seminar was chaired by MEP Elmar Brok, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and MEP Danuta Hübner, Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

    Secretary-General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle made a presentation on the necessity of providing professional support for the legislative cycle and democratic scrutiny in order to nourish an assertive Parliament.

  • Photo of the meeting room at the European Parliament in Brussels, with participants in the conference sitting in a large circle
    Conference room © European Union (2015) - European Parliament

    A better education and the media can contribute to women's greater participation in the political and public life of the Western Balkans and Turkey. This was one of the main conclusions of the interparliamentary seminar held in Brussels as part of the European Parliament's commemoration of International Women's Day.

    MEPs stressed that increasing women's participation can be facilitated by quotas within political parties, better access to education, combatting negative stereotypes, removing legal obstacles and guaranteeing women's and men's equal access to public offices.

    MEPs also highlighted the European Parliament's contribution to this field in adopting resolutions, including those on on "Women in political decision making - quality and quantity" in March 2012 and "Women's rights in the Balkan accession countries" in May 2013.

    The conference was co-chaired by MEP Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT), Vice-President for the Western Balkans, and MP Gordana Čomić, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.

    Other attendees included

    • Dimitris Papadimoulis (GUE, GR), Vice-President for Gender Equality and Diversity,
    • Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, ES), Chair of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality,
    • Marijana Petir (EPP, HR), and
    • Norica Nicolai (ALDE, RO).

  • ...
    ...

    The EU internal energy market and perspectives for creating an energy union, the Western Balkans' perspective on energy connections between the EU and Turkey, and promoting energy efficiency and energy investment projects were among the themes of this conference at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara.

    The seminar provided MEPs the opportunity to underline the EU's willingness to work with the Western Balkan states and Turkey to enhance energy security.

    Enlargement country parliamentarians, including the five chairs of parliamentary energy committees, were able to express their strong interest in engaging with the EU in this field.

    Turkish questions

    The debate between MEPs and Taner Yildiz, Turkey's Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, was particularly informative.

    Minister Yildiz outlined Turkish energy policy, affirming his country's commitment to both the Turkish Stream and TANAP (with the latter remaining the Turkish priority). He refused, however, to say whether his country would join the Energy Community as a full member.

    Participating MEPs

    Members of the European Parliament delegation were:

    • Jerzy Buzek (EPP, PL),
    • Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, RO),
    • Tonino Picula (S&D, HR),
    • Nikolay Barekov (ECR, BG),
    • Neoklis Sylikiotis (GUE, CY) and
    • Barbara Kappel (NI, AT).

  • Photo of smiling MEP Ulrika Lunacek at the conference Tirana (Albania) on 20-21 November 2014
    MEP Ulrika Lunacek © European Union (2014) - European Parliament

    The pivotal role played by the EU in facilitating the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups, including LGBTI citizens, in the enlargement region was repeatedly highlighted by MEPs and MPs from the Western Balkans and Turkey at the conference in Tirana (Albania) on 20-21 November 2014.

    Ilir Meta, the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament, and MPs from the Western Balkan and Turkish Parliaments underlined the positive steps taken in the protection of human rights and the fight against discrimination in their countries.

    They reiterated their parliaments' commitment to further aligning their legislation with the acquis communautaire, while stressing the need to improve implementation of already adopted laws.

    Representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) praised the progress made in their countries, but also emphasised that LGBTI citizens often remain at risk of discrimination, marginalisation or even violence.

    Several participants, including European Parliament Vice-President Ulrike Lunacek, spoke of the need to change social outlooks in order to improve LGBTI citizens' everyday lives. The role of the media in breaking stereotypes and changing attitudes was argued to be key in this process.

    The conference was organised in cooperation with the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Commission.

  • Exterior view of the Serbian parliament, with statues and trees visible beyond the front portico
    Serbian parliament - Image used under license of Shutterstock.com

    In this interparliamentary conference, hosted in Belgrade by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia on 20-21 November, MEPs underlined the importance of moving beyond the protection of national minorities, towards preventing security threats and promoting reconciliation. This also implied moving from peaceful coexistence towards integrative citizenship.

    The event was organised in cooperation with the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

    Overcoming antagonism

    Pointing to historical precedents in the EU, MEPs demonstrated that long-standing antagonism can be overcome and lose relevance. They insisted on the proactive role that national minorities can play for social cohesion.
     
    The ensuing debate compared experiences related to the inclusion of minorities and other vulnerable groups in the Western Balkans and Turkey to similar situations in the European Union.

    This provided MPs, MEPs, academic experts and representatives of national minorities in Serbia the chance to discuss the implementation of national and supranational guarantees, constitutional norms, electoral systems, their interpretation and practice.

    Participants

    The conference was opened by Maja Gojković, Speaker of the National Assembly.

    In addition to MEPs Pál Csáky (EPP, SK), Ivo Vajgl (ALDE, SL) and Csaba Sógor (EPP, RO), 26 MPs from Albania, Montenegro, Serbia attended an exchange of views and best practices with MEPs, academics (Professors Giovanni Poggeschi, University of Salento, Italy, and Tove Hansen Malloy, Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues, Flensburg) and representatives of the European Union, the Council of Europe and other institutions.

    Several minority councils of Serbia took part in the debate.

    The event was open to the public, civil society organisations and the media.

Study visits (2014-2019)

The European Parliament organises study visits for elected representatives and parliamentary officials from the Western Balkans and Turkey.
  • The European Parliament has established a support programme for the parliaments of the enlargement countries of Western Balkans and Turkey to enhance the capacity of members and staff of these parliaments. This, in turn, strengthens democracy and facilitates the countries' integration with the EU, which is consistent with the European Parliament's priorities.

    In this framework, the Parliament of Montenegro has expressed a strong interest in discussing administrative and strategic aspects of human resources management, including recruitment, careers, professional training and personal development.

    The European Parliament is organising a study visit to Brussels on this subject on 21-22 March 2019 for staff from Montenegro handling HR management. Participants from Albania and Kosovo will also join.

  • MEP Elmar Brok addresses visiting MPs from the podium of a conference room in the European Parliament
    MEP Elmar Brok addresses visiting MPs © European Union (2018) - European Parliament

    Twenty-two MPs, who were elected for the first time in parliamentary elections in Albania, Kosovo, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, joined a study visit to the European Parliament on 22 and 23 January 2018. The aim was to allow these newly elected MPs to become acquainted with the European Parliament, its structures and work, and its role in EU enlargement policy.

    The study visit was a follow-up to the European Parliament's election observation missions to the three countries.

    MEPs' support

    Eleven MEPs who work closely with the three concerned countries, both in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and in delegations, contributed to the study visit. They underlined that 2018 provided a window of opportunity for EU enlargement policy and advised the newly elected parliamentarians to be proactive and fight for necessary reforms to bring their respective countries closer to the EU.

    MEPs reiterated that the EU, and in particular the European Parliament, is a staunch supporter of the accession of the Western Balkan countries to the EU, with the caveat that individual countries are responsible for moving forward.

    MEPs underscored that boycotting local parliaments is not a solution and should stop, as it sends the wrong message to the public and the EU.  In this context, they argued that dialogue, negotiations and compromise between the different parties is the only way forward.

    Country-specific issues

    • The Albanian delegation referred to the recent improvement in Greek-Albanian relations.
    • The Kosovo delegation repeatedly complained about the stalled visa liberalisation scheme (for which the MEPs urged them to fulfil all preconditions, including the Kosovo-Montenegrin border demarcation).
    • MPs from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on various occasions, urged the European Parliament to intervene in their countries' favour in their negotiations with Greece about the name of the country.

  • ...
    ...

    The study visit allowedparticipants to grow better acquainted with the European Parliament's and other EU institutions' role in the EU decision-making process, in particular regarding EU accession.

    Adrijan Vuksanović, Chair of the Committee on European Integration, Andrija Nikolić, Chair of the Committee on International Relations and Emigrants, and four Members of the Committee on European Integration from the Parliament of Montenegro participated.

    The visit was organised shortly after the attempted coup against Montenegrin institutions and in the wake of the country's accession to NATO. These recent events focused numerous discussions on questions of security and defence.

    The Montenegrin MPs met with key MEPs from the corresponding European Parliament committees, in particular

    • the Committee on Foreign Affairs, including its Chair David McAllister (EPP, DE),
    • MEP Charles Tannock (ECR, UK), the standing Rapporteur on Montenegro
    • MEP Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D, RO), Vice-President of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy.
    Visiting MPs also exchanged views with
    • MEP Anna Elżbieta Fotyga (ECR, PL), Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence,
    • MEP Eva Kaili (S&D, GR), Chair of the Delegation for relations with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and
    • MEP Derek Vaughan (S&D, UK), Vice-Chair of the Committee on Budgetary Control.
    The Montenegrin MPs also met with representatives from the European Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman, the European External Action Service and the European Commission.

  • The European Parliament organised a study visit to Brussels for high-level officials of the Assembly of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from 23 to 25 May. Six parliamentary officials participating gained a deeper knowledge of the work of the European Parliament.

    The visitors met with

    • MEP Ivo Vajgl (ALDE, SI), Rapporteur on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
    • MEP Alojz Peterle (EPP, SI), Chair of the Delegation to the EU-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
    • MEP Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK), Chair of the AFET Working Group on the Western Balkans,
    • MEP Tunne Kelam (EPP, EE), Shadow Rapporteur on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    The participants also met with officials from DG NEAR, the EEAS and the Council of the EU, as well as political group advisers and staff members of the European Parliament's Directorate-General for External Policies (DG EXPO).

    The message of all EU interlocutors was clear: without a resolution of the political crisis in the country and an agreement on the name dispute with Greece, no progress could be made towards the country's goal to start EU accession negotiations.

    The objectives of the study visit were fully met - so much so that participants suggested that the European Parliament use the programme of this visit as a template for future study visits from other enlargement parliaments.

  • ...
    ...

    Ten newly elected Members of the Assembly of Kosovo who are active in committees relevant to EU integration visited the European Parliament in Brussels on 3 - 4 June 2015.

    The aim of the study visit was to provide participants with a better understanding of the work of the European Parliament and its political and administrative bodies, as well as of the Parliament's and other EU institutions' role in the EU decision-making process.

    MPs were able to meet key European Parliament political actors interested in the region, including

    • MEP Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on Kosovo for the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and
    • MEP Elmar Brok, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

  • The study visit to the European Parliament in Brussels enabled Montenegrin MPs to meet their counterparts from the European Parliament's corresponding committees, specifically those on Budgetary Control and on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

    In their speeches, participating MEPs paid particular attention to

    • financial supervision of the executive,
    • legislative work on transparency,
    • protecting whistle-blowers and
    • international cooperation in fighting financial fraud and organised crime.

    The Montenegrin MPs also held discussions with MEPs from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the European Parliament's delegation to the EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee. Talks addressed the European Parliament's monitoring of the accession process, in particular through Parliament's work on the EU's annual progress reports.

    During their stay in Brussels, the Montenegrin MPs also met also with officials from DG NEAR, the EEAS and OLAF.

  • MPs from the Republic of Serbia's National Assembly travelled to Brussels to learn about the work of the European Parliament and the institution's contribution to the EU enlargement process.

    MEPs who met with the Serbian MPs included:

    • Eduard Kukan, Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee,
    • Ivo Vajgl, Shadow-rapporteur on Serbia for the ALDE Group,
    • Igor Šoltes, Vice-Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, Shadow-rapporteur on Serbia for the Greens Group,
    • Othmar Karas, Chair of the Delegation for relations with Russia and Members of the Delegation for relations with Russia,
    • Tonino Picula, Chair of the Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo,
    • Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Parliament.

  • Parliamentary officials from Bosnia and Herzegovina paid a study visit to the European Parliament and other EU institutions in Brussels on 12 November 2014. The visit allowed participants to become better acquainted with the EU decision-making process and the European Parliament's working methods, as well as its political and administrative bodies.

    In particular, the visit provided the participants with the opportunity to discuss with

    • MEP Cristian Preda (EPP, RO), Rapporteur on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and
    • MEP Tonino Picula (S&D, HR), Chair of the Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

    The European Parliament's monitoring of the accession process, and in particular Parliament's resolutions on the annual progress reports, was a focus of talks.

    The study visit was organised in cooperation with the Hungarian parliament, which runs a capacity-building twinning project (financed by the EU's Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance) with all state and entity parliamentary assemblies in Bosnia and Herzegovina.