EU squanders aid-money by wrong approach in Western Balkans

Article published on Nov. 7, 2008
community published
Article published on Nov. 7, 2008
On 5 November 2008 the Commission adopted its annual strategy document explaining its policy on EU enlargement. Furthermore, the 2008 progress reports were published on the same date, where the Commission services monitor and assess the achievements of each of the candidate and potential candidates over the last year.
Regarding Serbia and Kosovo the reports are giving quite different picture, even bigger gap is visible if EU’s input and achievements are added to the same context.

The EU input...

After Kosovo conflict European Union has invested some 4.000 million euro for capacity building of Kosovo administration at local, regional and central levels, to some infrastructure investments etc. In addition Kosovo security system has enjoyed services (or consumption) of remarkable Kfor troops. In fact Kosovo has got more money per capita than any other mission country in the world.

Serbia has also got some aid, but less than half per capita and without extra services or money of foreign troops.

Advisers and experts around the globe have been developing Kosovo administration and economy towards highest EU standards same time when Serbia was trying do some progress on its own.

...and the outcome

A) Serbia

Like earlier reports also the latest one states that Serbia has good capacity in its public administration. European integration structures were strengthened and the National Programme for EU Integration was adopted. Regulatory bodies performed well under difficult conditions.

The Serbian economy continued to grow strongly and the country made some progress towards establishing a functioning market economy.Regarding European standards Serbia is well placed to implement the SAA and the Interim Agreement, thanks to its good administrative capacity. In conclusion Belgrade was nonetheless offered the prospect that it could become a EU candidate next year.

B) Kosovo

The Kosovo government needs to ensure administrative capacity, sufficient means and determination to enable effective and efficient implementation and enforcement.

The economy of Kosovo has grown at a somewhat higher rate than in previous years, but Kosovo has made very limited and uneven progress towards establishing a functioning market economy. Macroeconomic performance was marked by weak budget implementation growing inflation, very high unemployment and external imbalances.

Kosovo has made some progress in approximating its legislation and policies with European standards, however, little progress has been made on the effective implementation and enforcement of legislation.

In conclusion Kosovo had by far the most negative evaluation on its achievements during the year.

Lessons learned

An average EU taxpayer is maybe a little bit confused how the massive input has materialized so poorly on the ground. How is it possible that progress made without that massive input has been better when massive input elsewhere is leading almost opposite way.

The answer is not Kosovo war. During 1999 Nato bombings were causing most destruction to civilian structures and infrastructure in Serbia not in Kosovo.

I think main reason for poor performance is the practice that EU has again used top-to bottom approach with its development activities. In practice this means, that EU Commission bureaucrats are implementing some nice high level European ideals, throw money in, recruit western consultancy firms and are waiting some nice reports (which of course are reflecting huge progress etc). This has happened in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina too, which also got red light from Brussels.

The other problem with top-to-bottom approach is that commitment of local stakeholders remains low – the advisers are working for Brussels not for them or with them. The follow-up from this practice is that modest achievements are only temporary and when aid is spend the system collapses.

My conclusion is that latest now it is time to start new bottom-to-top approach in western Balkans and especially in Kosovo using participatory planning methods as tool while designing future visions, strategies, action plans and projects among local stakeholders.

More my articles over Balkan and Caucasus events one may find from my Archives:Blog