The Fifth Western Balkans Regional Cross-border Cooperation (CBC) Consultative Forum, in the last four years, organised by Unit D5 of DG NEAR, with the support of the EU-funded multi-country project ‘Cross-border Institution Building – CBIB+ Phase II’ took place on 17 and 18 October in Struga (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

Over 60 representatives of the national authorities and joint structures, as well as of the Delegations of the European Union and DG NEAR, managing the EU-funded cross-border programmes under the Instruments for Pre-accession Assistance (2007-2013 IPA and 2014-2020 IPA II) attended the event. The participants originated from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Kosovo*; all beneficiary territories of the financial assistance under the CBC  programmes.

The 2007-2013 IPA provided financial assistance to eleven CBC programmes between the above mentioned Western Balkans territories (including Croatia), while the 2014-2020 IPA II is providing assistance to nine CBC programmes from the same territories (excluding Croatia).

The event was officially opened by Mr Suhejl Fazliu, Minister of Local Self Government in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, followed by Mr Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union in the same country, and Mr Colin Wolfe, Head of Unit Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes in DG NEAR, who chaired the meeting.

During these two days, the participants had the possibility to share and exchange experiences on the ongoing implementation of the 2014-2020 IPA II CBC programmes (launch of the first round of calls for proposals, technical assistance service contracts, role of structures), discuss problems and bottlenecks encountered and possible solutions.

In addition, as further improvements in programme management and better impact of programme implementation were the main topics of the Forum, Mr Massimo Mina, Team Leader – Evaluation and Monitoring in DG NEAR Unit A4, presented the follow-up action plan stemming from the 2007-2013 ex-post evaluation and opened the discussion on that in a plenary session.

Ms Jlenia Destito, Coordinator of IPA-IPA CBC programmes within the Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes unit in DG NEAR, introduced a discussion on the revision of the 2014-2020 programmes, as well as the expectations for the future post 2020 programmes. This resulted in a constructive discussion.

The CBIB+ Phase II project team presented the newly developed programme monitoring system that should provide the programme structures with an instrument to prove the achievement of results and capture the programmes impact.
A representative from the Managing Authority of the CBC programme Karelia (Finland-Russia) exposed their experience with the implementation of thematic calls for proposals. During the ensuing discussion, there was reflection on the relevance of the lessons learnt under the programme Karelia for the CBC programmes between IPA II Beneficiaries.

All participating stakeholders made clear their commitment to continuously demonstrate with data their performance and progress towards the achievement of the programmes’ goals.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence