Cross Border Cooperation funds and regional cooperation – Kosovo case

Dissolution of Yugoslavia was bloody and destructive. From 1989 till 1999, more than 31.000 people were killed and around 4 million people were displaced from their homes during Yugoslav Wars. As an outcome, seven countries have declared independence and Serbia remains as a successor of former Yugoslavia. From eight countries in total, two countries have already joined European Union: Slovenia joined in 2004 and Croatia in 2013. Three countries have the candidate status: Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Two other countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered as potential candidates, but these countries are in different stages in their way to European integration. During whole this process, European Union was the key actor, providing economic and political support during the whole time.

This article focuses on Kosovo and in fact how financial aid of EU is helping Kosovo to grow in economic and social aspects through so-called Instruments of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). Specifically, it will have a close watch on the second component of these Instruments, called Cross Border Cooperation (CBC).

IPA is the financial instrument for the European Union pre-accession process for the period 2007-2013 with regard to IPA I, and 2014 – 2020 to IPA II. Assistance is provided on the basis of the European Partnerships of the potential candidates and the Accession Partnerships of the candidate countries, which means the Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Iceland. The IPA is intended as a flexible instrument and therefore provides assistance which depends on the progress made by the beneficiary countries and their needs as shown in the Commission’s evaluations and strategy papers. The beneficiary countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.

IPA beneficiary countries have very different funding needs. IPA is designed to meet these different needs flexibly, and provide a tailor-made funding solution through the following five components of IPA: Transition Assistance and Institution Building, Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC), Regional Development, Human Resources Development and Rural Development.

IPA’s second component, Cross Border Cooperation, is an EU-funded instrument, co-funded by the cooperating countries, that supports and enables bordering countries to cooperate in different fields and aspects, like economic, social, environmental, cultural and sports activities. Kosovo is currently engaged in cross border cooperation with three out of its four neighbour countries: Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.

The mechanism through which cross border cooperation is implemented is through projects. Those projects are funded through grants. The grants are awarded to a selection of local non-profit organisations. This selection usually takes place based on the quality of proposals that organisations have submitted and that fit within the border region’s development priorities as described in that specific CBC programme. A key characteristic of a cross border cooperation project is that it is completely joint, with a representation on each side of the border.

Except Ministry of Local Government Administration, another responsible institution regarding CBC in Kosovo is the Ministry of European Integration (MEI). Its task is to help the MLGA in implementing CBC program, assisting in technical issues and managing EU funds from different spheres.

Kosovo has signed three CBC agreements with its neighbouring countries: with Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. There is still no agreement with Serbia, because of Kosovo’s political status. Regarding economic aspect, all the agreements are focused on SME, agriculture, mining industry, energy and tourism.

The overall objective of Kosovo – Albania cross-border program is fostering sustainable development in the cross-border region. The programming process took place from end January to end April 2010. The programme was developed following a process of wide consultations with the local stakeholders and potential beneficiaries in both sides of the border. The programming area for the IPA CBC Programme Albania – Kosovo covers 14,470 km² in total.

The objective of the Kosovo – Macedonia Program is to promote cooperation between people, communities and institutions of the bordering areas, aiming to foster economic development, social cohesion and sustainable environmental development. The programming process took place in the period between January 2010 and April 2010. The territory of the Programming Area for the Cross-Border Program between Macedonia and Kosovo covers 13 140 km 2 with a total population of about 2.789.000 inhabitants. Both capitals Pristina and Skopje are included in the programming area, the population counts for almost 78% of the total population in Kosovo and 53% in Macedonia.

The Kosovo – Montenegro CBC program was jointly prepared over the period September 2010 – February 2011 following a process of wide consultation with the local stakeholders in both sides of the border. The programming process was coordinated by the respective CBC Operating Structures: the Ministry of Local Government Administration in Kosovo and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration in Montenegro. The final draft-programming document was submitted to the European Commission in February 2011. The document was approved in December 2011. The overall objective of this Cross-border Program is to improve the socio economic situation within the programme area by fostering co–operation and joint initiatives in the following priority sectors: environmental protection, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and tourism offer. The programme area for the Cross-border Program between Montenegro and Kosovo covers a territory of 10,927 km2with a total population of about 1,229,000 inhabitants. The total borderline length is 75.6 km. The population living in the eligible and adjacent areas on each side of the border accounts for almost 38.5% of the total population of Kosovo and 62% of Montenegro.

Are CBC funds helping Kosovo to have economic growth?
Based on the very few existing data, we can conclude that Kosovo is having progress in its economy after being part of IPA CBC funds. Through different projects, tourism is being stimulated, which consist on economic growth. Raising awareness and giving exact information how to manage properly with SME, optional energy resources and agriculture, people involved in these sectors are changing the way of thinking and doing things, and by taking appropriate measures they are making their work more efficient, which again lead to economic growth. This has a spillover effect: when one sector is integrated and functional, the process naturally will lead to the development of other sectors.

There are several problems that occur in this issue. First, lack of information about CBC funds is preventing a lot of NGOs and other organizations to apply for funds and to make projects. Second, problems with infrastructure, electrical system and transport sometimes make projects impossible to be realized, especially in rural areas. This is causing problems to the NGOs, because even if they would have a project approved, sometimes it can be problem to implement it in these circumstances and conditions.

Author: Artan Murati