Subnational governments play a significant role in ensuring good public governance. The way that they are organised and function has a direct impact on the economic and social well-being of citizens and public trust in government. This report presents the system of multi-level government in the six Western Balkan economies, comparing them both with one another and in the context of broader international trends in multi-level governance. The report covers territorial and institutional organisation, competences of local governments, human resources and accountability, public financial management and vertical and horizontal co-ordination, in each case identifying key characteristics and recent trends.
Published regularly, this newsletter reports on the activities of the OECD/GVH Regional Centre for Competition. It provides information about recent cases and developments in the participating economies in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are essential drivers of sustainable economic growth in the Western Balkans and Turkey, where they make up 99% of all firms, generate 65% value added and account for 75% of employment. Nevertheless, SMEs across the region continue to face obstacles such as difficulties accessing financing, low levels of digital uptake, regulatory barriers and relatively low participation in international trade. The situation has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: SMEs found themselves fighting for survival amidst reduced demand, lockdowns and travel restrictions, and supply chain disruptions. This report provides an overview of the implementation of the Small Business Act for Europe during the period 2019-22. It is designed to help policy makers design, implement and monitor policies to support the recovery of SMEs from the pandemic, boost their competitiveness based on OECD and EU good practices, and further enhance the region’s economic growth and resilience.
The Western Balkans region has come a long way over the last two decades in achieving economic and social progress. Its people are the region’s greatest asset. Yet faced with a lack of opportunities many, particularly the young, decide to emigrate. To make the most of its future the region must invest in its attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest in. This report comes as a follow-up to the earlier publication Multi-dimensional Review of the Western Balkans: Assessing Opportunities and Constraints. It builds on an extensive peer-learning process that brought together experts from across the region and beyond. The report provides suggestions and recommendations for three strategic priorities that can help create opportunities and boost the quality of life. First, better education and more competencies are the basis for raising productivity, creating jobs, encouraging civic participation and making the region an attractive destination. Second, social cohesion is the bedrock of resilient societies and requires stronger labour market policies and effective social protection that can cushion people’s hardship and provide them with new opportunities. Third, cleaner air and more sustainable energy are indispensable for boosting the region’s quality of life and economic opportunities.
Good governance of public agencies requires the application of a set of regulatory and managerial tools to find the right balance between autonomy of agencies and adequate oversight from portfolio ministries and other actors. This paper provides insights from EU and OECD good practices, with a detailed analysis of EU acquis requirements for national regulatory agencies. New empirical evidence shows that public administrations in the Western Balkans and European Neighbourhood area lack clear policies and regulations for agency governance and misinterpret the EU acquis. This leads to a proliferation of agencies, duplication of functions and waste of public resources, a lack of accountability to portfolio ministries and generally a governance vacuum. Implementation of government policy is blocked and democratic accountability generally undermined. Finally, recommendations for better organisation of public administration are provided, based on the empirical analysis and lessons learned from SIGMA's engagement in such reforms.
The future sustainable economic development and well-being of citizens in South East Europe depend on greater economic competitiveness. Reinforcing the region’s economic potential in a post-COVID-19 context requires a holistic, inclusive and growth‑oriented approach to policy making. Against the backdrop of enhanced European Union (EU) accession prospects and a drive towards deeper regional integration, the governments of the six Western Balkan (WB6) economies have demonstrated a renewed commitment to enacting policy reforms. The third edition of Competitiveness in South East Europe: A Policy Outlook comprehensively assesses policy reforms in the WB6 economies across 16 policy dimensions crucial to their competitiveness. It leverages a highly participatory assessment process, which brought together the views of OECD experts, WB6 policy makers and local non-governmental stakeholders to create a balanced and realistic depiction of their performance. The report seeks to provide WB6 policy makers with a multi-dimensional benchmarking tool, enabling them to compare performance against regional peers as well as OECD good practices, and to design future policies based on rich evidence and actionable policy recommendations. Economy-specific profiles complement the regional assessment for the first time in this edition of Competitiveness in South East Europe: A Policy Outlook, and provide each WB6 economy with an in-depth analysis of their competitive potential as well as policy recommendations tailored to their specific challenges to inform their structural economic reforms and sustainable development agenda.
The Western Balkans region has come a long way over the last two decades in achieving economic and social progress. With a population of 17.6 million, the region today boasts a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of close to EUR 100 billion, an average GDP per capita of about EUR 5 400 and a comprehensive process of integration with the European Union. This report provides multi-dimensional assessments across the economic, social, finance, governance and environmental pillars of sustainable development for five economies of the region. The region’s location, its deep relationships with Europe and its academic tradition present many opportunities for future development, especially at a time when distances are shrinking further with digitalisation. Making the most of this potential will require collaboration in tackling challenges, which have been further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boosting competences and education, strengthening social cohesion and ensuring a green transformation towards clean energy and the valuation of the region’s natural wealth, emerge as strategic priorities. Beyond practical and financial constraints, future solutions must address considerable institutional and governance challenges that remain across the region.
The paper provides a comparative analysis of the implementation of the recently adopted laws on administrative procedure in the five Western Balkan administrations. First the paper confirms the compliance of the laws with the principles of good administrative behaviour that have been established by the Council of Europe recommendations, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Principles of Public Administration. Subsequently, the application of these principles in practice is reviewed on the basis of three sample administrative procedures. Finally, the paper identifies the main implementation challenges and their causes as well as suggests measures for overcoming the challenges on the basis of experiences from EU and OECD member states.
The Western Balkans region has clear aspirations to improve its economic competitiveness and integrate further into Europe. A highly skilled population is critical to achieving these goals, which makes creating and maintaining high quality and equitable education systems a vital part of regional development efforts. Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that learning outcomes in the region have improved over time, but that the improvement has not been equitable. Some students are performing similarly to students from countries in the European Union, while others are lagging further behind. This report, developed in co-operation with the European Commission and UNICEF, analyses PISA data in detail to identify the strengths, challenges and unique features of education systems in the Western Balkans. Drawing upon a rich knowledge base of education policy and practice in the region, it makes recommendations about how systems in the region can improve learning for all students. This report will be of interest to regional policy-makers as well as individuals who wish to learn more about education in the Western Balkans.