Wednesday, May 22, 2024

ONLY STRATEGIES ARE NOT ENOUGH, POLITICAL WILL AND STRONG REFORMING LEADERS ARE NEEDED

If it continues with large groups for the implementation of reforms, filled with party experts, as is the case now, even the new strategy will not be able to be implemented at the right pace. This, in any case, will also be reflected in the duration of the process of negotiations for EU membership, which means moving away from achieving full membership in the Union.

Author: Xhelal Neziri

As it moves towards integration into the European Union (EU), the need for North Macedonia to have an administration capable of implementing EU-related laws and policies will become inevitable. This can be seen from the newest members of the EU, which were forced to undertake this difficult reform in order to ensure that all harmonized laws will be implemented efficiently and deliver the expected results.

How did Croatia, the last EU member to complete the negotiation process in 2013, do? First, he drafted a new law of administration, which aimed to decentralize the civil service and ensure greater transparency in the selection of employees, in the description of the workplace and in the development and management of careers. The administration of Croatia has gone through three phases similar to that of North Macedonia: the first is its rise in the period 1990-1993, the second includes consolidation in the period 1993-2001 and the third – Europeanization that ended with the country’s membership in EU. The period of Europeanization was fundamentally developed in 2008, when the strategy of reforming the administration in accordance with EU criteria was adopted. Administration of Croatian central institutions in that 60,500 civil servants, with 15 ministries, 9 state organizations and 4 national offices. At the local level, the municipal administration has counted 11,000 civil servants, engaged in 429 municipalities, 126 cities and 20 districts. In total, Croatia has started the reforms with 71,500 administrators, even though it is a bigger country than North Macedonia, which has to start this process with a full 110,000 administrators. At the local level, North Macedonia has around 7,000 administrators, while the others are at the central level. So, the country’s administration is about 40 thousand bigger than Croatia’s in 2008.

There is also a difference between Croatia and North Macedonia: if the former has meticulously implemented the administration’s strategy, the country cannot boast of such a thing. The evaluation of the 2018-2022 Strategy testifies to a “fatigue from reforms” in the institutions responsible for their implementation. Proposals for changes to the laws that regulate the administration and the proposal for the introduction of the Law on senior management service continue to remain unapproved, while the implementation of the current laws is either formal or does not give the expected results.

The evaluation states that “the required level of transparency and inclusiveness has not been implemented throughout the implementation process of the Strategy and Action Plan 2018-2022”. It is further stated that the goals of the Strategy should be considered relevant for the future Strategy as well, which also means the low level of its implementation. The Public Administration Reforms Council and the Secretariat, according to the evaluation, did not use the full capacity for the coordination and cohesion of the Strategy with other sectoral strategies related to administration reforms.

And, finally, it is emphasized that the monitoring and control of institutional responsibility is not foreseen in the action plans. According to the analysis, 12 unrealized activities from the Action Plan are still relevant and that for 28 unrealized activities there are not enough necessary financial, human or material resources. In the evaluation, it is recommended that priority in action plans be given to activities that will improve the provision of services, digitalization and interoperability.

The new draft Strategy 2023-2030 looks equally ambitious. It is still in preparation, but strong will and political consensus will be needed to implement the same. Unlike the previous strategy, which was perhaps not a priority for the Council for Reforms in Public Administration, the latter will be implemented under the magnifying glass of Brussels and within the process of the country’s integration into the EU.

However, the goals of the new strategy must be clearly defined and must be in line with European civil service criteria. Therefore, this document should aim at increasing the efficiency of the administration, increasing the quality of services, increasing the sensitivity of the administration to the needs of citizens, increasing the ethical level and reducing corruption, digitizing services, the rule of law and democratic institutions.

Above all, North Macedonia can follow the Croatian model of reforms in the administration, which has several good examples such as: cooperation between the academic world and state institutions, engagement of recognized experts in specific fields from civil society, strong reforming leaders and parties dedicated to reforms. If it continues with large groups for the implementation of reforms, filled with party experts, as is the case now, even the new strategy will not be able to be implemented at the right pace. This, in any case, will also be reflected in the duration of the process of negotiations for EU membership, which means moving away from achieving full membership in the Union.

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