European Commission

Border guards stamping documents in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. © BOMCA

EU-UNDP Border Management Programming in Europe and Central Asia

Border management is a key focus of development work, and partnerships between UN agencies, the European Union, and programme countries, in the developing and transition countries of Europe and Central Asia. In the past decade, EU-funded border management projects implemented by UNDP have delivered more than €140 million.

Specific projects include the following:

BOMCA:The Border Management for Central Asia programme  promotes the gradual adoption of integrated border management methods in the region by enhancing border security and facilitating legal trade and transit. The introduction of European integrated border management methodologies, based inter alia on the experience of the Schengen process (combining firm but modern ‘external’ border management with liberalized ‘internal’ border movements) is an important emphasis. Activities include policy advice on legal and institutional reforms, procurement of border infrastructure, and strengthening national border management capacities. BOMCA, which has delivered some €26 million in programming since its inception, is now moving into its eighth phase (with an €8 million budget). Implementation of BOMCA 8 will rely on a partnership between the European Commission, EU member states, UNDP, the Vienna-based International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICPMD), and other development partners. UNDP has also helped implement phases of the EU’s Central Asia Drug Action Programme, budgeted at €14 million.

Border Management in Badakhshan: Whereas BOMCA has focused primarily on internal borders within Central Asia, the European Commission is now adopting an approach similar to BOMCA’s vis a vis  the Tajikistan – Afghanistan border. The focus is on border regions in eastern Tajikistan’s mountainous Badakhshan province. UNDP has helped implement nearly €4 million under this programme.

EUBAM: The EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine supports the two countries in better managing the 1,222 kilometre Ukrainian – Moldovan border, in particular focusing on the Transnistrian region segment. The mission trains and supports border guards and customs services in their efforts to facilitate the legal, efficient, cross-border movement of goods and persons, and contributes to the international community’s efforts to peacefully resolve the Transnistrian conflict. On-the-job training and advice to Moldovan and Ukrainian officials provided by more than 100 customs and border guard experts from 22 EU member states have proved to be effective capacity- building tools. UNDP has since 2005 been implementing EUBAM, which employs over 200 staff. Current commitments under this €55 million programme run until 2011.

BOMMOLUK: EUBAM has also coordinated the Improvement of Border Controls at the Moldova-Ukraine Border, a €9 million programme which is likewise UNDP implemented and co-funded. The project has focused on equipment procurement, risk analysis, and training for officers at joint border crossing points. The EU has funded technical assistance through direct procurement of goods and services by the EU delegations, and through direct budget support (in Ukraine). These initiatives are designated ‘EUBAM flanking measures’.

SCIBM: The South Caucasus Integrated Border Management programme , has since 2009 been supporting the implementation of integrated border management strategies by the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Whereas overall contractual responsibility vis-à-vis the European Commission rests with UNDP, implementation of project components is delegated to border management agencies in the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, as well as ICMPD.

BOMBEL (Enhancing Border Management in Belarus), BOMUK (Enhancing Border Management in Ukraine), and EBCMP (Enhancing Border Control Management in Moldova) have followed essentially the same pattern as BOMCA, offering a package of capacity building measures for each country’s state border guard service, including training, creating European-standard accommodation centres for irregular migrants, upgrading dog training centres, and introducing sophisticated technology, such as the biometric identification of travellers. Some €20 million in has been delivered under these programmes.

SCAD: The South Caucasus Anti-Drug Programme  combines integrated border management to prevent narcotics trafficking (supply-side interdiction) with support for national efforts to prevent drug abuse and care for drug addicts (demand-side management). UNDP has helped implement nearly €6 million under this programme.

BUMAD: Prevention of Drug Abuse and Fighting Drug Trafficking in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova takes a similar approach to drug abuse and trafficking in the Western CIS countries. UNDP has helped implement €7 million under the first three phases of this programme.

Customs Modernization in Azerbaijan: UNDP has since 1999 been helping the State Customs Committee to automate its work via the introduction of modern ICT instruments, as well as simplify border and customs regulation  EC funding of €800,000 has supported this multi-million dollar initiative.
Vitalie Vremis (UNDP Moldova) and Zuzana Aschenbrennerova (UNDP Regional Centre, Slovakia)

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A wall separating Babin Most, a Serbian village on the road from Pristina to Mitrovica. Recent incidents in Mitrovica, which is divided between Serbs and Kosovars, underscore the fragility of prospects for cross-border cooperation. © Andrew Testa/ Panos Pictures

Cross-border cooperation in the Western Balkans: roadblocks and prospects

Regional development and cross-border cooperation in the Western Balkans is one of the key areas of intervention by multilateral international institutions such as the European Union, the World Bank, UNDP, Council of Europe and EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). To illustrate, in order to reinforce cooperation with countries bordering the European Union, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) includes a component specifically targeted at cross-border cooperation (CBC). Some 15 CBC programmes (9 land borders, 3 sea crossings and 3 sea basin programmes) have been established along the Eastern and Southern external borders of the European Union with a total funding of €1.2 billion for 2007-2013.

The regions which benefit from CBC have a total population, on both sides of the EU borders, of some 257.5 million citizens—of which 45 percent live in the Northern and Eastern border regions, and 55 percent in the Southern border regions—49 percent in the EU border regions, and 51 percent in the border regions of the partner countries.

Table 1: Population in the Border Regons in Europe (millions, 2009)

*This includes nine land borders, three sea crossings and three sea basin programmes.

The nature of funding programmes earmarked towards CBC underlines the objective of long-term sustainability. This involvement and multi-level commitment by the international community is a key driver of regional development and cross-border cooperation in the Western Balkans. It is gradually making progress, albeit from a rather low point of departure given the wars and ethnic conflicts of the 1990s.

Regional ownership – the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC),1 established in 2008 and located in Sarajevo, is the most visible sign of new institutional capacity to advance regional as well as local ownership of the policy process. The hope is that regional cooperation in the Balkans can also be delivered by those who are expected to practice and benefit from it. The RCC promotes mutual cooperation and European and Euro-Atlantic integration in Southeast Europe. It focuses on six priority areas: economic and social development, energy and infrastructure, justice and home affairs, security cooperation, building human capital, and parliamentary cooperation. In operational terms, the Heads of State and Government of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) (including Greece, Turkey, the western and Eastern Balkans and Black Sea countries) provide the political backing for the RCC’s annual work programme, while the European Commission provides most of the funding. The key aim is to generate and coordinate developmental projects and create a political climate amenable to implementing projects of a wider, regional character, to the benefit of each individual member.

Regional development and cross-border cooperation in the EU context

CBC in the EU context uses an approach largely modelled on structural fund principles such as multi-year programming, partnerships, and co-financing, adapted to take into account the specificities of the European Commission’s external rules and regulations. One major innovation of the ENPI CBC can be seen in the fact that the programmes involving regions on both sides of the EU border share a single budget, common management structures, and a common legal framework and implementation rules, helping to balance partnerships between the participating countries. The European Commission also promotes cross-border cooperation and bilateral development in the Western Balkans through the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) financial assistance tool. This instrument is operational since 2008 and currently applies to all countries in Southeast Europe seeking membership in the European Union. Annual programmes are implemented in cooperation with the international donor community and co-managed with local representatives from the beneficiary countries.

To illustrate the modus operandi of IPA, consider the Annual Programme for Montenegro in 2009/10 with regard to cross-border cooperation. In the priority axis 2, the so-called economic criteria, the EU Delegation in Podgorica awarded €5 million for the rehabilitation of the main rail line Bar-Vrbnica, to the border with Serbia. The beneficiaries of this project are the Ministries of Transport and Telecommunications in both countries as well as the respective railways companies. Given that such transport infrastructure investments require considerable financial resources which the recipient countries do not possess by themselves, the multi-year project is being co-financed with supplementary loans from the European Investment Bank and EBRD totalling €10 million.2

A further project illustration in the Commission’s IPA programming cycle for 2009/10 concerns joint cross-border programmes between Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo3 in the Kukes region. The rehabilitation and improvement of border crossing infrastructure in Morine in the Kukes region bordering Albania and Kosovo has a total budget of €0.46 million in 2009/10. In comparison to the previous example, the sums are small, largely because many implementing regulations are absent in Kosovo. At present, EU CBC programming involving Kosovo’s cooperation with neighbouring countries is being hampered by the ongoing limitations of the international recognition process.4 These limitations suggest that regional disparities may in fact be cemented despite cross-border cooperation seeking to reduce such differences.

Table 2: CBC Assistance provided by the EU in the IPA Framework 2007- 2013

Source: Communication from the Commission, IPA 2011-2013, Com (2009) 543, 14th October 2009.

A further example underlining the importance of and challenges to regional development and cross-border cooperation in the Western Balkans concerns minority rights and protection. Most countries in the region continue to have refugees and displaced persons from the wars of the 1990s.

In Montenegro, for example, the authorities in Podgorica still need to resolve the status of approximately 16,200 refugees from Kosovo.5 Cross-border cooperation between Montenegro and Kosovo in this delicate area needs to address such issues as:

  • The legal status of refugees and displaced persons (e.g., concerning access to employment for foreigners);
  • Construction of accommodation for Roma refugees from Kosovo;
  • Of particular concern is the situation of the Konnik refugee camp close to Podgorica;6
  • Creating legal conditions for the integration of those refugees and displaced persons who wish to remain in Montenegro and acquire Montenegrin citizenship by naturalization;
  • The capacity of Kosovo to absorb and re-integrate refugees from neighbouring countries in terms of housing, labour market participation and educational infrastructure.7

 

But while Montenegro and Kosovo may seek to jointly resolve some of these challenges, outstanding issues with neighbouring Serbia can obstruct such bilateral initiatives. Relations with Serbia continue to be disrupted by the Montenegrin decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence. The Montenegrin Ambassador in Belgrade was declared persona non grata in October 2008. A new Ambassador was only accredited to Belgrade in September 2009, almost a year later.

Cross-border cooperation – two encouraging examples from the field

Incremental functional cooperation is taking place on the ground in selected policy-making fields. There are specific examples from the region where cross-border cooperation among countries is starting to manifest itself without primarily being driven by considerations of future political rewards from the European Union. The joint decision by three former Yugoslav republics in August 2010 to form a common railway company aimed at winning back some of the Central European freight business lost during the wars of the 1990s is a case in point.

The commercial objective of the joint enterprise is to ensure rapid freight service along the so-called Corridor X, which links Germany and Austria with Turkey. To date, such transport infrastructure investments had largely by-passed potential rail corridors in the former Yugoslavia, due to a lack of political will to identify actionable projects in this dimension of cross-border cooperation.8

A second encouraging example concerns bilateral relations with other countries seeking EU integration. For instance, Montenegro signed an agreement with Albania on cooperation in science, technology and culture in 2009. Concrete steps in such areas as joint border patrols and information exchange against organized crime are taking place. Moreover, Montenegro established a joint working group with Croatian counterparties on resolving property issues and a council on economic relations is holding regular meetings.

Even defence cooperation and joint border police training activities are taking place between countries that a decade ago were at war with each other, while negotiations on agreements in social security are ongoing between various countries in the Western Balkans.

Prospects for cross-border cooperation

Possibly the most important arena for and challenge to cross-border cooperation in the Western Balkans concerns political and institutional arrangements between Serbia and Kosovo. The former refuses to recognize the latter as an independent sovereign state and therefore does not acknowledge the legitimacy of its borders. Meanwhile, the latter itself is having difficulties convincing its own ethnic Albanian population that cross-border cooperation with Serbia may be in its own best interest, in order to advance the international recognition process for Kosovo.9

A recent incident in the city of Mitrovica which is ethnically divided between Serbs and Kosovars highlighted the delicacy of the situation and the magnitude of the tasks facing Serbia and Kosovo and the 2,000 strong European Union police mission stationed in Kosovo. In mid-September a French police officer was shot and wounded during clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs who pelted each other with stones at the foot of the bridge over the river Ibar that separates the two communities. These clashes occurred after Turkey defeated Serbia in the semi-finals of the world basketball championship.

The clashes underscore the deep divide that runs between both communities more than a decade after the end of the Kosovo war in 1999. It is in cities such as Mitrovica that the feasibility of regional development and cross-border cooperation is most acutely tested in the Western Balkans. Cross-border cooperation is making headway in the field of economic inter-change and public-private investments by the EU, the EBRD and the World Bank. However, it appears that business-related initiatives are primarily driving such regional cooperation. Meanwhile politics and implementation capacity have yet to live up to the specific policies being advocated by the European Union, the Regional Cooperation Council, and other international organizations.

Jens Bastian is Alpha Bank Fellow for South Eastern Europe at St. Antony’s College in Oxford, U.K. He is also a Senior Economic Research Fellow at ELIAMEP (Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy) in Athens, Greece.


1 The RCC is the successor of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. While its secretariat is located in Sarajevo, the RCC also has a liaison office in Brussels. The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council is Hido Biscevic. For further information consult www.rcc.int.

2 EIB is the financing institution of the European Union. It has provided in excess of €4.5 billion in loan to finance the region of the Western Balkans during the past five years.

3 Hereafter referred to in the context of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

4 IPA regulations (Component II as defined in Article 91 of Implementing Regulations) stipulate that a participating country must be fully capable of assuming the financial, administrative and
regulatory responsibilities of carrying out such bilateral projects.

5 For a country totalling roughly 610,000 inhabitants (Montenegro), this is a rather high ratio of refugees from one neighbouring country alone. More than 5,600 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina also reside in Montenegro.

6 It is the single largest refugee camp, has received considerable media attention inside and outside the country as well as being identified by the European Commission as a test case for the Montenegrin authorities to identify sustainable solutions according to EU standards.

7 The so-called Sarajevo Declaration process, which aims to finalize refugee returns in the Western Balkans since 2006 is only making limited progress. While participating countries are working on their respective roadmaps, there has been limited discussion of implementation issues on either a bilateral or a regional basis.

8 Instead during the past 20 years such rail corridors had been going through Hungary and Romania.

9 Until September 2010 only 70 countries had officially recognized Kosovo, chief among them the United States and 22 of the 27 members of the European Union. But Serbia, Russia, China, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece and Spain have not recognized the sovereignty of Kosovo.

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Drawing a lesson from EU experience? A boat patrolling the border between Ukraine and Moldova. © OSCE

EU cohesion policy: lessons for wider Europe?

The European Union’s cohesion policy has become one of the premier policies managed at the European level along with the Single Market, competition policy, and agricultural policy. The policy is currently financed to the tune of €345 billion. In the past the policy has provided the resources necessary to kick-start the process of socio-economic development and convergence of the less-developed countries and regions towards levels of well-being enjoyed by other EU Member States.

Ever since 1981 when Greece joined the then European Economic Community (EEC), most of the new Member States (aside from the 1996 accession that brought in Sweden, Finland, and Austria) have come from southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Malta and Cyprus) or Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). All 14 of these countries entered the EU with per-capita income levels below the European average. They had centralized national decision-making and implementation structures, and had little or no experience with regional development policies. The new Member States therefore needed significant financial resources to upgrade their infrastructure networks, skill base and productive capacity in order to take advantage of the single European market.

The lessons that can be learned from the experience of the new member states in dealing with cohesion policy can be useful for the countries along the EU’s southern and eastern borders who are involved in the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy or accession processes. The first lesson to be learned is the need to be able to effectively engage in collective decision-making. The EU does not project a single executive but rather many types of executive structures, from the European Commission to the European Council. This is true for countries dealing with the decision-making structures within the EU as well as for those interacting with the EU from the outside. For the last 12 countries that entered the EU during the last six years, accession brought with it the need to establish a working relationship with other Member States in order to fully participate in collective decision-making at the European level. In addition, they had to become comfortable with implementation mechanisms where the management of policies was predicated on the role of the Commission as policy initiator and implementer.

The second lesson is that, in addition to engaging in collective decision-making procedures at European levels, member states have to be able to engage in or feel comfortable with the use of multi-level systems of governance in the coordination of implementation of EU policies. In relation to cohesion policy, the rules and financial provisions are determined at the European level while the responsibility for day-to-day implementation, monitoring of expenditures and evaluation of programmes remains at the national and regional levels. In other words, the policy for regional development is not a national but rather a European policy. Therefore, the policy cannot be based only on a ‘two-level game’ bringing together the national and European levels in the management of the policy. Instead, cohesion policy from its beginning in 1989 has been based on a system of multi-level governance involving European, national and sub-national governments and administrative structures. Participation in the policy process is also foreseen for representatives of socio-economic groups drawn from civil society.

The third lesson is that development programmes financed by the European Commmission represent legally binding contracts between the managing authorities at the national and regional levels responsible for the delivery of the programme, and the European Commission, within the foreseen time parameter established by the policy. The rules are strict and homogenous for all countries participating in the policy. In cases of non-compliance, a system of financial sanctions may be invoked. This system of sanctions has been very effective in raising the level of compliance and reducing the graft and corruption in the use of the funds below what is present in other national policies.

The fourth lesson to be learned from the experience of Central and Eastern Europe is that large member states need to divide their country into regions for the purpose of creating planning institutions at the sub-national level to administer the regional operational programmes. In the case of Bulgaria that requirement had not been met by the beginning of 2007, and therefore the amount of money allocated to the country was reduced and the control mechanisms set up by the Commission were more stringent than was the case in other countries. In many of the new Member States the need to create institutions with the necessary planning and implementation capacity at the sub-national level was quite a challenge. So was the need to restructure national administrative systems to engage in a system of multi-level governance and carry out economic programming over the seven-year EU budgetary cycle.

A fifth lesson is the need to carry out programme evaluations. The administration of cohesion policy introduces the necessity to engage in policy evaluation as an integral part of programme implementation. During the policy cycle—that is, at the beginning, at midterm and at the end—the programme has to be evaluated in terms of its ability to reach its defined goals and to learn how the policy can be improved during the next budget/programming cycle.

A sixth lesson that can be derived from cohesion policy is that cross-border cooperation programmes involve not only national governments, but also local and regional authorities. It is the cohesion policy that introduced the experimentation of cross-border programmes, bringing together regions and local authorities in different Member States to implement a common development programme capable of taking advantage of existing local resources and promoting greater socio-economic interactions. Such programmes have been very useful in preparing the accession of new members into the EU, and have helped to eliminate impediments to the flow of goods, services, capital and people across-borders. The smooth transition to the elimination of the borders between Western and Central Europe in May 2004 was to a great extent prepared by the numerous cross-border programmes financed by INTERREG, the inter-regional cooperation programme first introduced in 1989 and extended through 2006. Cross-border cooperation is now an integral part of cohesion policy programmes, representing the third objective of cohesion policy (in addition to the competitiveness and convergence objectives for, respectively, more and less developed regions).

A final lesson to be learned is that cohesion policy has an integral part to play in developing a response to the economic and financial crisis that began in 2008. A considerable amount of the cohesion policy fund (60 percent) has been targeted toward the triple objectives of sustainable growth, increased competitiveness and job creation outlined in the Europe 2020 programme launched in March 2010. This new programme represents the continuation of the Lisbon Strategy initiated with the Lisbon Agenda in 2000 and renewed by the Lisbon II programme reformulated in 2005. As a consequence, the Lisbon Strategy and cohesion policy have come together to focus on the three objectives outlined above, and this will be even more the case in future policy cycles.

The dual examples of the cohesion policy and Lisbon Strategy, along with the Single Market and the Single Currency programmes, point to an increasing level of ‘Europeanization’ in a variety of policy fields. In order to operate effectively in the Europeanized policy making system, countries need to develop the ability to participate in collective decision-making given that in at least some aspects of economic policy EU decisions are already based on majority voting. Future member states will also find that the Growth and Stability Pact limiting budget deficits and overall debt will be more strictly adhered to than has been the case in the past. But in compensation the European Union is in a much better position to shield the countries from the risks of financial default and currency crises. These are the lessons we have learned from the Greek sovereign debt crisis within the Euro and the speculative attacks against the Hungarian forint.

Robert Leonardi is Director of the Economic and Social Cohesion Laboratory at the London School of Economics.

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