Regional Parliamentary Initiative
Parliaments in the Western Balkans must play an essential role in their countries’ pursuit of European Union membership, as well as respect the public interest and reform legal, social, and economic systems. To ensure that legislation both complies with EU standards and is responsive to the public interest, parliaments in the region must strengthen their oversight of government, improve legislative research and create opportunities for public input into legislation. As parliaments in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia make strides and missteps toward these goals, they have lessons to share with one another and much to learn from their counterpart legislatures in Central Europe.
In 2009, NDI launched a regional initiative to develop parliaments’ legislative, representative and oversight abilities with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. Using experiences from Central European legislatures, the initiative deals with important legislative considerations in the EU accession process.
The initiative has focused on oversight of the state budget process, staff development, committee oversight operations, and e-parliament applications, setting the agenda for improved lawmaking and increased transparency. NDI has organized study visits to Bratislava, Prague and Warsaw, for research, legal and committee staff coming from the six Balkans legislatures.
As a result, the Montenegrin parliament has recently launched a parliamentary research institute modeled after what its staff had observed while on a NDI-organized fellowship in Slovakia. The new institute will provide research, library and archiving services, and an education and training center. The Kosovar parliament has improved staff workflow and internal communication guidelines drawing from practices observed at regional gatherings. And Serbia’s parliament is considering recommendations by a Slovak parliamentary assessment team to improve its research and information services.
Collaboration within the Balkans is also increasing. Albanian and Kosovar committee clerks traveled to Macedonia in 2012 to observe an oversight hearing. NDI’s annual meeting of parliamentary secretaries general is a unique venue for parliamentary leaders to discuss resource, staffing and technology reforms.