Vojvodina in the Process of European Integration and Further Cooperation on the European Continent (2)
With regards to a broader context of cooperation on the European continent, AP Vojvodina is actively working on the realisation of three main objectives:
- Establishing the position of AP Vojvodina in the international environment and within the EU integrations process.
- Widening of the international contacts network
- Spreading of European values in AP Vojvodina
Objective I: Establishing the position of AP Vojvodina in the international environment and within the EU integrations process
The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is planning an active participation in the international cooperation process as well as EU integration processes of the Republic of Serbia. AP Vojvodina highlights the continuation of internal reforms clearly defined by an economic development strategy which shall re-affirm AP Vojvodina as a progressive region with strong international connections and connections with regions from Member States and European institutions. What lies ahead of us is the continuation of the promotion of AP, the protection of the region’s interests, support from and exchange of ideas with the representatives of European regions in Brussels. In addition to all this, we will work on introducing the public to the EU strategic objectives, informing the wider population about the programmes and projects to which they may apply, with the aim of influencing the socio-economic development on the regional level. This will lead us to our goal, the active use of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance EU 2014-2020, with special emphasis on raising capacities and transitions in the EU integrations process, regional development, employment, social policies and HR development, agriculture and rural development, regional and territorial cooperation.
In establishing the position of AP Vojvodina as a proactive region, the relevant European processes shall be identified in a timely manner, the establishment of positions and stands of Vojvodina supported, thus influencing the creation of interregional policy in favour of AP Vojvodina.
In the previous period, Vojvodina has been working on the adoption of the AP Vojvodina Development Programme (2014-2020) with the Action Plan for the Realisation of the Programme Priorities for the Development of AP Vojvodina (2014-2020). Vojvodina is ready to take part in the activities of the Negotiating groups of the EU accession process Coordinating body, the future activities of the EU CoR Joint Consultation Committee and the Republic of Serbia, which will represent local and regional authorities in the Republic of Serbia. Vojvodina shall also play an active role in the work of the Working group for EU cooperation in the Danube region as well as in the implementation of the project ‘Vojvodina standard’ which shall train the local self-governments to use the EU funds and acquaint the representatives of the local self-government units on the territory of AP Vojvodina about the accomplishment of the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, intended for local and regional authorities.
Objective II: Widening of the international contacts network
As a border region, AP Vojvodina has a developed international cooperation. The international relations and the political contacts are fostered on a bilateral level and within multilateral organisations. The domain of the international cooperation of Vojvodina includes a broad range of fields, starting from economy, environment, culture, social issues, health, tourism, education, science and research, sports to socio-political issues. AP Vojvodina is a full member of the AER (Assembly of European Regions, 2002), the DKMT Euroregion (Danube-Criş-Mureş-Tisa, 2013) as well as the IRE (Institute of European Regions).
International relations between regions in an integrated Europe and the globalised world represent a significant instrument in policy creating. The advantages of international activities of the province range from economic benefits for Vojvodina to contributions to the principle of the rule of law. Historically speaking, Vojvodina, among other reasons, holds the key position towards Europe, due to its geographical position. Therefore, the relations with Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Bosnia and Croatia are deepened. It was precisely for this type of cooperation that the EU funds were planned for with AP Vojvodina using 87% of the total funds intended for Serbia.
The defined goal was to concentrate cooperation on those partnerships that function well. Currently, around 20 regional partnerships are active. The partnerships are estimated according to the consequence system and are subject to ranking according to priorities.
The new strategic approach is reflected in the widening of the space of the international activities ‘outside’ the borders of the Province (representative office in Belgrade, international organisations) but also outside institutions (a network of EU partners, experts educating the citizens play an important rule, with logistics provided by universities and expert agencies) thus establishing the ‘democratisation’ of the international cooperation processes. On the other hand, the representatives of the provincial administration shall, at any point in time, advocate the interests of AP Vojvodina abroad, with the assistance of a wide network of regional partnerships. The space for activities is thus broadened both from the inside and the outside.
In that sense, in 2013 Vojvodina was the host of the final conference of the association „Four motors of EU’, which gathered the provinces of Baden-Württemberg (FR Germany), Lombardy (Republic of Italy), Rhȏne-Alpes (Republic of France) and Catalonia (Spain), regions with a combined GDP of around 1000 billion EUR. In 2014, the largest multilateral event was the recently completed AER Summer Academy in Vojvodina, which gathered around 130 representatives of different EU regions. During the five days of the Academy, the representatives took part in lectures and workshops regarding multiculturality, multilinguality and multinationality within the context of social and economic development in Europe. In October, we will take part in the ‘Open days’ in Brussels, an event organised jointly by the European Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy and the CoR in partnership with the regions from the ‘Four motors of EU’ as well as Dutch, Polish and Italian regions. In addition, AP Vojvodina shall organise the event ‘Days of Vojvodina in Brussels’.
Objective III: ’Europe in Vojvodina’ – promotion of European values
Regions are obligated to distribute information coming from the European Union and ‘translate’ them into a language understandable to a wider population. They provide added strength to the EU policy, since they have the opportunity to present local examples of programme realisation related to the citizens from their region.
The awareness of the importance of EU integrations and the membership in the EU should be further empowered through active communication with the citizens.
AP Vojvodina shall continue to intensify the activities of informing the professional and general public in the EU integrations process as well as interregional cooperation, which shall be deemed an integral part in adopting the acquis communautaire and the EU integrations democratic process
For this end, the Provincial Secretariat for Interregional Cooperation and Local Self-Government introduced the ISO 9001 standard and we are currently working on establishing an interactive part on the website of the Secretariat entitled ’Europe Direct’ where citizens would be able to ask questions regarding EU integrations and international cooperation.
It is quite clear that Vojvodina will face a more advanced, competitive and volatile economic and political environment in the upcoming decades; an environment characterised by different processes such as the globalisation, further developments in information and communication technologies as well a new competitive market. In light of these new circumstances, Vojvodina shall create an adjustable, flexible decision-making mechanism pertaining to international cooperation and EU integrations with respect to current trends in international communication, through partnerships and association, both on the internal and international level.
Author: Branislav Bugarski, Provincial Secretary for Interregional Cooperation and Local Self-Government of Autonomous Province of Vojvodina