On 23 February 2017, Ms Jadranka Joksimović, Minister without Portfolio in charge of European Integration in Serbia, and H.E. Ambassador Michael Davenport, Head of Delegation of the European Union in Serbia, opened the 4th Cross-border Cooperation (CBC) Regional Consultative Forum (hereinafter the Forum). Under the auspices of the European Commission (EC), the Forum, which lasted two days, was organised by the EU-funded multi-beneficiary project ‘Cross-border Institution Building – CBIB+ Phase II’ in close cooperation with the European Integration Office of the Government of Serbia.
Over 80 representatives of the institutional structures managing the EU-funded cross-border programmes under the Instruments for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA and IPA II) took active part in this event. The participants came from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Kosovo*, all beneficiary territories of the financial assistance provided by the 2007-2013 IPA and 2014-2020 IPA II (with the exception of Croatia). In other words, they are all participants in the eleven CBC programmes financed by the first instrument and the nine CBC programmes supported by the second one.
The regional forums are ruled by a spirit of partnership under the conviction that territorial cooperation helps regions of the participating territories to work for common benefit; they foster reconciliation and restore regional ties through mutual respect and continuous dialogue. Moreover, forums help ensure that the CBC programmes are developed and implemented in a manner that is informed by and responds to the needs of the stakeholders. Through regular communication and feedback, the forums also ensure that stakeholders understand and support the achievement of the CBC programmes’ goals. They reaffirm the willingness of the members to emphasise good governance practices, and transparent and participatory decision-making, which require that stakeholders are both consulted and empowered to participate in those decisions affecting them.
The present event was the 4th Forum over the last four years. In particular, the Forum came at a critical moment when the closure of the 2007-2013 CBC programmes is imminent and the start of implementation of the 2014-2020 CBC programmes is taking off. Furthermore, the Forum served as a platform for debate about the recommendations of an evaluation ordered by the EC. This evaluation took stock of what happened with the programmes that are soon ending and stressed the importance of embedding the lessons learnt in the starting programmes for future strategic planning, programme management and performance framework. It has become of utmost importance to prove in a tangible manner the changes caused by the operations receiving financial support from the CBC programmes in the lives of citizens resident in the border areas.