ReSPA – ten years of joint endeavour of the European Commission and the Western Balkans governments in public administration reform
Founded as a joint endeavour of the European Commission and the governments of the Western Balkans, ReSPA has been networking ministries and public administration institutions in the region and connecting them with the European Commission and experts involved in public administration reform in EU member states. The knowledge sharing and learning from best practices influence the formation of public policies and processes needed for the efficient public administration reform processes in the region by making them more efficient.
What this means in practice, Ms. Ratka Sekulović, ReSPA Director, who has been managing this institution over the last five years will tell us.
You briefly explained the role of ReSPA in the region and what our focus is. First of all, I would like to emphasize that public administration reform is a long and complex process not only in our region but also within the EU member states. At the same time, it is one of the key preconditions for the integration of the countries of the region into the membership of the European Union.
It is clear that the European Commission itself, aware of the complexity of the reform processes ahead of the region 10 years ago, has expressed the need to establish ReSPA. During the first years of its work, ReSPA was a training center for civil servants in the region, but also a unique opportunity for them to meet and share their experiences. In 2015 we redefined the role and position of ReSPA and positioned it as a regional hub for networking actors involved in public administration reform and their connection with globally and EU prominent experts.
ReSPA has organized more than 400 events with more than 6.000 participants from all over the region who embedded the acquired knowledge and experience into the reform processes within their countries.
In your opinion, how is the region progressing in public administration reform? Is it possible to give a general overview?
Progress is evident in the entire region, especially during the last few years. The processes are accelerating, the countries of the region are paying more and more attention to digitalization and transformation of services, which are now much more focused on the needs of citizens, while at the same time the work of public administrations becomes more transparent and efficient. Also, a lot of work is being done on the harmonization of public policies and processes, so that the overall conclusion is that the region is progressing at a fairly uniform and stable pace in these reform processes.
What is the role of ReSPA in this progress? What specific activities and results can you single out and why?
It is difficult to place ten years of work in one paragraph, especially when that work is related to complex thematic areas, which is the case with our Programme of Work, and when they are not directly related to citizens but to empowering civil servants who further incorporate the acquired knowledge, skills and tools into the reform processes and institutional progress. Conducting more than 30 studies that include more than 150 concrete regional and country-specific recommendations (with clear guidelines for improving the employment process, digital transformation of public administrations, quality management and harmonization of public policies), the introduction of European tools for improving the quality of public administration services such as the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) across the public institutions in the region, formation of a regional Quality Management Centre and Regional Network of Policy Coordinators are just some of the examples of how ReSPA in practical way foster reform processes.
How do you rate the cooperation with ReSPA member countries and how does it reflect on their national public administration reform strategies?
Again, it is a difficult task to specify and single out the results at the national level individually, but this is a good opportunity to present the In-Country Support Mechanism – a support mechanism that we introduced a few years ago and which proved to be a very practical and effective form of support. Through this mechanism, ReSPA has supported the optimization of public administration, influenced the drafting of the Law on Civil Servants, the Law on Internal Financial Control, the development of e-Learning systems, the development of digital transformation strategies and numerous other projects within member states.
Certainly, insisting on regional cooperation, good coordination with the European Commission and numerous program activities have a positive impact on the development and implementation of national strategies of our members.