In last few months we were very active in Macedonia and Albania developing Evaluation of the IPA Cross Border Cooperation Republic of Macedonia – Republic of Albania. The evaluation report was prepared in the framework of the bilateral GIZ German development cooperation with Macedonia and in particular Programme for Regional Economic Development in Macedonia. The evaluation was launched for the needs of the Sector for European Union at the Ministry of Local Self-government of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia.
The purpose of the assignment was to present findings based on OECD DAC evaluation criteria on relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. The concussions and recommendations of the project were later used for the improvements in the current implementing phase and to better prepare for the new programing period.
The Macedonia – Albania CBC programme helps to improve depth and intensity of cooperation in the area, which is weak due to topographic and geographic nature of the common border (diverse and large area with nature sites and common nature resources), political and administrative nature of the common border, economic disparities and existence of weak historic ties and converging cultural and linguistic circumstances.
The key factors fostering the integration and means to promote positive factors or to overcome persisting obstacles can be seen in language possibilities mostly at the Macedonian side of the border where a significant part of the Albanian speaking population is living. This may help in communications and in integration of people in operations to be later supported by the CBC and other programmes. Similar territorial, natural, rural situation in both countries in the CBC area may give potential for joint approaches and joint approach to opening opportunities and problems solving. Above all common natural resources (Ohrid and Prespa lakes, several protected areas, several rivers and river springs, forest and other reserves) are the key for integrations to protect the living space for inhabitant so the area and for the wider society. Lower cooperation to date offers additional motivation for future exploring of the possibilities and building integration and allowing people to learn and know their neighbouring area and culture.
This is the first process of joint planning and implementation of the cross border cooperation programme and key factors that hindered effective territorial co-operation are similar to several other CBC areas:
- Weak knowledge of possibilities (opportunities and problems) and possible partners on both sides of the border, which minimises the opportunities for the drafting of joint projects,
- Low knowledge of the programme and possible actions under the newly established initiatives and lack of understanding of the required procedures under the financial programme,
- Lack of experience for operation and support to potential project applicants and for project implementing partners and lack of motivation,
- Language barriers mostly linked to abilities to operate in English language (application, reporting).
Operations financed under the programme were focused to 4 major focuses:
- Social cohesion through: empowerment of women, social inclusion of persons who served prison sentence, disability and prevention, social integration of the vulnerable groups, women crossing borders for change, civil society forum, children with speech and language difficulties,
- Business development through: strengthening the SME sector, branding, business without borders, working in the rural, building employment opportunities, integrated alternative tourism, promoting business women, actions on entrepreneurship business support
- Environmental management through: water resource management, promotion and awareness on environment protection, enable new forms of services, capacity building for environment governance, integrated sustainable management, biodiversity conservation
- Education through: strengthening education and training capacity, improvement of VET, establishment of a cross border institutionalized partnership.
The cooperation in the area is not stable yet both in financial and in strategic terms. Partners need support in financial support and in management especially in developing projects. Approved projects are not robust actions, which would have time and knowledge to be able to focus on results and on cross border issues. Projects are still capacity building actions of organizations from the CBC area.
The key Community added value of the programme to the CBC area is that it has built foundations for the future cooperation. In political terms the Community added value can be seen in better knowledge of each other in partnerships built and in increased cooperation. While institutional Community added value can be seen in knowledge about neighbors and in ability for joint drafting, implementation and financing of cross-border programmes and projects.