The democratic transition of the last 20 years in Central Europe and the Western Balkans has resulted in a rapid increase in the information available to parliaments. Thus, parliamentary research services must be adaptive and strategic in their provision of information to help members of parliament, committees and parliamentary staff amend laws and conduct government oversight. By partnering with countries that previously developed these services, NDI, with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, seeks to translate best practices acquired by parliamentary research and information service (PRIS) centers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia to the Western Balkan parliaments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Through a survey of partner countries compiled in this report, NDI has identified best practices and challenges across these 11countries, offering a valuable tool to improve PRIS in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as other parliaments developing legislative research services around the world.
PRIS best practices culled from NDI’s survey include the following:
- The PRIS should focus their assistance on legislative committees--the primary actors in the legislative and oversight process.
- The types of services within the PRIS to be further developed included in-house legislative/legal services to ensure that legislation is compatible with domestic and European Union laws.
- With ever increasing downward pressure on budgets, developing financial and economic expertise is essential to improve legislatures’ capacities to assist with the budget making process.
- PRIS staff are best divided according to policy area which allows the development of specialists and experts in the PRIS services.
Challenges addressed by the PRIS include:
- Recognizing resource constraints, PRIS must reconcile the desire to offer a broader range of information, and providing more thorough information on a smaller range of topics.
- PRIS in the Western Balkans need to improve their ability to prepare information summaries on leading bills, and must seek to participate in committee meetings; where a PRIS absence weakens PRIS ability to lead on furnishing research, and offering the most up to date information on current legislation to parliament members.
- PRIS must improve their ability to develop financial and economic researchers, which currently hampers the legislative review of the budget process.
- PRIS are becoming increasingly important to legislatures. Western Balkans’ PRIS will need to adapt to a changing paradigm of how information is accessed and used.