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Parliamentary staff from seven parliaments in the Western Balkans trained on conducing oversight on IPA funds

On November 29th and 30th 2013 in Skopje, Macedonia, 36 parliamentary staff from 7 parliaments from the Western Balkan parliaments took part in the regional training workshop titled: “Parliamentary oversight of IPA funds”. The parliamentary staff that participated work for the committees on Economy, Finance and European integration in parliaments in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

During the two day training participants had the opportunity to get theoretical and practical insight into the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance – IPA, how the instrument functions, what can be expected from the IPA 2 in the period that follows, for the purpose of understanding the instrument as a precondition for conducting successful parliamentary oversight of IPA funds.

In addition participants explored how to communicate and coordinate with the government and other institutions in the process of conducting IPA oversight, what is the most important information about IPA projects that need to be taken into account while preparing briefs for MPs, where to find reliable information about IPA and IPA projects.

By presentation and exchange of good practices the participants had the opportunity to get first-hand information about the process of conducting parliamentary oversight on IPA funds in the region, but also in the European Union through the examples of scrutiny that the Scottish parliament conducts on EU and structural funds.  A case study from the Macedonian parliament, where the committee on EU affairs conducted a number of oversight hearing on IPA funding, was presented during the training.

“Even though we as parliamentary staff are in constant contact with the terminology and processes that are discussed here, these presentations give us opportunity to hear practical information and examples, to get answers to our questions and exchange practices with the colleagues from the region. This is truly a unique opportunity for us.” - stated Vilson Ukaj, coordinator of the Committee for Budget and Finance in the Assembly of Kosovo.

A toolkit that was specially developed for the need of the members of parliament and parliamentary staff on parliamentary oversight of IPA was presented during the training, thus providing the parliamentary staff with an additional tool that they could use in doing more successful oversight on IPA funds.

According to Stanislava Culic, advisor in the Committee on European Issues within the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia: “Having the toolkit on IPA oversight was a great help in the process of preparation and implementation of the IPA oversight hearing in the Macedonian assembly, and I warmly recommend this useful tool to all of my colleagues from the region.”

This regional training is the first in series of trainings that are planned to be organised by the Network of Parliamentary Committees on Economy Finance and European Integration of Western Balkans, aimed to build the capacities of the parliamentary staff. This regionally- led network, formed in 2009, seeks to strengthen regional parliamentary cooperation on economic regulatory reform and to identify and implement regional solutions to overcoming the economic crisis, and speed up EU integration. WFD is supporting the Network through a three-year programme, from 2012-15, to strengthen the role of parliaments in the Western Balkans in promoting competitiveness and economic growth.