NDI Western Balkans Legislative Strengthening Initiative

NDI Western Balkans Legislative Strengthening Initiative WBLSI works to increase the legislative capacity of parliaments to engage in effective and transparent governance in the Western Balkans. As the countries of the Western Balkans move forward in their democratic transitions and pursue membership in the European Union (EU), the need to strengthen the parliament – the institution constitutionally charged with representing the electorate, creating laws that respond to the needs of society, and overseeing the executive branch – is critical to both democratic transitions and EU membership prospects.
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Although at different stages in their quests for EU membership, aligning the parliament with European standards is a key priority for all of the Western Balkan countries. With EU aspirations defining the process of their development, Western Balkan parliaments have much to learn from Central European counterparts as the latter offer important lessons on strengthening institutional capacities in preparation for EU accession. However, the parliaments of the region have much to share among themselves as they seek to overcome common challenges, including rigid partisan and ethnic divisions that thwart development; cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and structures, relics of their shared pasts; and insufficient resources to support minimum parliamentary operations. To support the state-level parliaments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as they seek to address similar organizational and legislative hurdles, the National Democratic Institute (NDI or the Institute) launched a regional parliamentary initiative in 2008, with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Through this initiative, NDI advances collaborative relationships among the Western Balkan parliaments, together with legislatures in Central Europe, to enhance their institutional, legislative, representative, and oversight capacities. The first phase of the initiative centered on parliamentary capacity development by targeting staffing development and structural reform, creating independent research services, and securing independent budgets to determine institutional priorities. In the second phase of this initiative, started in 2010, NDI has focused on strengthening oversight mechanisms, particularly within the context of committee operations, as rules reform within the region has devolved greater legislative and oversight authority to standing committees. These changes have increased committees’ responsibilities for scrutinizing draft legislation, reviewing the state budget in areas of their competence, overseeing respective government ministries and summoning government ministers to provide reports and testimony, and assessing the impact of approved laws. Committee reports based on these activities are then offered to the plenary for debate and vote, requiring committees to conduct substantial work in these areas to create informed, detailed recommendations. Through the initiative, parliaments have clarified the legal frameworks – from the constitution to state legislation and parliamentary rules of procedure – to permit oversight of the executive, and have supported committees to address organizational issues that inhibit their effectiveness. While the parliaments have secured the basic framework for oversight and members of parliament (MPs) have demonstrated increasing understanding of democratic practices for parliamentary oversight, committees have struggled to utilize the full array of oversight tools, including public hearings, investigations and field hearings, and government and external expert testimony. Program participants have spoken of unclear or inconsistent procedures, insufficient preparation and disorganized agendas, and inadequate resources, among others, as issues preventing successful implementation of these tools and corresponding follow-through. Thus, the Institute proposes to build upon the work started in the two previous phases, and as a next step, identify common impediments that arise and find recommendations, both within the region and among other European models, for putting oversight tools to regular use in committee operations.

Operating as usual

National Democratic Institute gathered in Warsaw under the auspices of the NDI Western Balkans Legislative Strengthening...
12/11/2019

National Democratic Institute gathered in Warsaw under the auspices of the NDI Western Balkans Legislative Strengthening Initiative MPs and leading parliamentary staff from 10 countries from Central and South-Eastern Europe to discuss implications of frequent use of expedited lawmaking, codes of conducts and legislative and financial means for strengthening the role of the opposition.

From May 23-25, 2018 NDI hosted in Montenegro legislative experts working in committees, legislative and research depart...
05/25/2018

From May 23-25, 2018 NDI hosted in Montenegro legislative experts working in committees, legislative and research departments from the Western Balkans parliaments to share information and discuss support provided to MPs by parliamentary administration, improving the quality of the legislative process. Mr. Jaroszynski, legislative expert of the Polish Sejm, presented the best practices from the operations of the Legislative and Research departments of the Polish legislature and Mr.Vetrak from Slovakia shared information on the operations of the OLANO legislative team, tasked with drafting of bills, legislative amendments and preparation of legislative opinions for the OLANO party caucus.

Group photo—MPs and parliamentary staff @historical building of the Slovak parliament
11/28/2017

Group photo—MPs and parliamentary staff @historical building of the Slovak parliament

NDI convened in cooperation with the Slovak parliament MPs and staff members from the Western Balkans, Czech Republic, S...
11/27/2017

NDI convened in cooperation with the Slovak parliament MPs and staff members from the Western Balkans, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland to discuss how to collaborate across party lines during the legislative process and what administrative, financial and expert support is provided by parliamentary administrations.

Discussing participation of civil society in parliamentary proceedings and access to information, regulatory impact asse...
08/16/2017

Discussing participation of civil society in parliamentary proceedings and access to information, regulatory impact assessment alongside colleagues from the CEE region at the 2017 IFLA Parl conference hosted by the Polish Sejm and Senate. #iflaparl2017

SG Forum 2017--Warsaw 🇵🇱 Poland
07/13/2017

SG Forum 2017--Warsaw 🇵🇱 Poland

In Warsaw, Poland NDI is hosting the 8th meeting of Secretaries General from the Western Balkan parliaments. The goal of...
07/13/2017

In Warsaw, Poland NDI is hosting the 8th meeting of Secretaries General from the Western Balkan parliaments. The goal of the meeting is to discuss recent parliamentary developments and learn about the operations of the Polish Parliament.

Research staff from the region in Montenegro.
06/02/2017

Research staff from the region in Montenegro.

Researchers often have to visualize data to better communicate information to MPs. Marcel Sulek, data journalist from th...
06/01/2017

Researchers often have to visualize data to better communicate information to MPs. Marcel Sulek, data journalist from the leading Czech paper, Lidove noviny, shared his experiences with data visualization. "One has to have in mind that every data visualization is subjective and we can easily manipulate the data by visualizing them in a certain way." There is one rule that implies "less is more"-- less ink, less noise, less distraction.

Research services in the region are getting stronger and more productive. Discussing with parliamentary researchers news...
06/01/2017

Research services in the region are getting stronger and more productive. Discussing with parliamentary researchers news developments in their departments' operations, expansion of services provided and new products offered to MPs and committees.

Today starts in Montenegro a regional seminar  for researchers from the Western Balkans on advancements in research serv...
05/31/2017

Today starts in Montenegro a regional seminar for researchers from the Western Balkans on advancements in research services operations. The Secretary General of the Montenegrin parliament greeted everyone in Podgorica where seminar participants got a chance to see the premises of the parliament including the research center and parliamentary library.

Forum for Transparency of the Kosovo parliament, an issue-based caucus bringing together leading MPs, Secretary General,...
04/21/2017

Forum for Transparency of the Kosovo parliament, an issue-based caucus bringing together leading MPs, Secretary General, directors of parliamentary departments and civic society representatives, discussed today advancements of the parliament in legislative transparency and civic engagement. The Kosovo parliament adopted last year as the only parliament in the CEE region a Legislative Openness Action Plan, resulting in more data being available through parliamentary website. Zuzana Papazoski, NDI WBLSI Director, presented during the meeting global and regional trends in legislative transparency and outlined different tools EU parliaments are using to reach out to citizens.

#PDFCEE2017 is over but challenges remain. "The best way to harness mistrust is to help citizens feel active" Ethan Zuck...
04/11/2017

#PDFCEE2017 is over but challenges remain. "The best way to harness mistrust is to help citizens feel active" Ethan Zuckerman Happy to share ideas on how to make V4 governments and parliaments more open and better engaged.

Photo: Dawid Linkowski

Day 2: #rebootingdemocracyThe way the media work is changing rapidly. Internet is bringing us closer to people. We live ...
04/07/2017

Day 2: #rebootingdemocracy
The way the media work is changing rapidly. Internet is bringing us closer to people. We live the age of plenty-- more data, more tools, better technology...we ignore facts that don't suit us. Where are we heading? One of many topics discussed at the #pdfcee17

Personal Democracy Forum 2017 is starting in Gdansk,Poland. #pdfcee17 #rebootingdemocracy
04/06/2017

Personal Democracy Forum 2017 is starting in Gdansk,Poland. #pdfcee17 #rebootingdemocracy

Group photo from the last week's parliamentary conference in Prague. Thank you all for informative presentations and act...
04/01/2017

Group photo from the last week's parliamentary conference in Prague. Thank you all for informative presentations and active engagement in discussions. What an inspiring group of MPs and parliamentary experts!

MPs and parliamentary staff from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia together with par...
03/22/2017

MPs and parliamentary staff from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia together with parliamentary experts from the Czech, Polish, Slovene and Slovak parliaments discussed cross party cooperation in lawmaking and operations of issue based caucuses in the EU and Western Balkans. In the Czech parliament 31%-40% of laws are proposed by a group of MPs. The most common area for cross party cooperation in the Czech Republic is parliamentary affairs--strengthening position of MP or parliament as an institution.

Today starts regional conference on legislative initiatives and civic engagement in lawmaking NDI is organizing in coope...
03/21/2017

Today starts regional conference on legislative initiatives and civic engagement in lawmaking NDI is organizing in cooperation with the Czech Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

Final post from the OGP summit. Planning meeting of the Legislative Openness Working Group steering committee on future ...
12/09/2016

Final post from the OGP summit. Planning meeting of the Legislative Openness Working Group steering committee on future plans, implementation of the legislative openness engagement policy and upcoming conference on open parliaments most likely hosted by the Ukraine's parliament next year.

NDI president Ken Wollack speaking about NDI's role in coordination of the OGP Legislative Openness Working Group alongs...
12/09/2016

NDI president Ken Wollack speaking about NDI's role in coordination of the OGP Legislative Openness Working Group alongside the Congress of Chile. OGP recognized the importance of bringing parliaments in the OGP process and adopted in October 2016 a policy that provides engagement guidance.

Day 3 of the OGP summit/session on Opening Legislative Data. How do we put parliaments on the OGP agenda? Estonia: We ne...
12/09/2016

Day 3 of the OGP summit/session on Opening Legislative Data. How do we put parliaments on the OGP agenda? Estonia: We need to engage the parliamentary representatives, bring them to OGP planning meetings.

Sharing experiences with implementation of legislative openness action plans between parliamentary and civic society rep...
12/08/2016

Sharing experiences with implementation of legislative openness action plans between parliamentary and civic society representatives from Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine. #OGPsummitParis

The Speaker of the Italian parliament Ms.Laura Boldrini speaks how the Italian parliament invited hackers to the parliam...
12/08/2016

The Speaker of the Italian parliament Ms.Laura Boldrini speaks how the Italian parliament invited hackers to the parliament to develop applications to improve access and work with parliamentary data.

"Democracy cannot be taken for granted. Democracy is a struggle." Francois Hollande at the OGP plenary session opening. ...
12/07/2016

"Democracy cannot be taken for granted. Democracy is a struggle." Francois Hollande at the OGP plenary session opening. Discussing open data, civic engagement, dialogue between state institutions and citizens and fight against corruption at the 4th OGP summit in Paris.

Tomorrow starts the 4th Open Government Partnership Global Summit representing 70 countries. The OGP supports an essenti...
12/06/2016

Tomorrow starts the 4th Open Government Partnership Global Summit representing 70 countries. The OGP supports an essential mission: building democracy in 21st century which is open, participatory and transparent. The plenary session tomorrow will by opened by the French president Francois Hollande. NDI is actively involved in the OGP as in cooperation with the Congress of Chile the Institute coordinates the work of the OGP Legislative Openness Working Group. For more information on the summit go to www.ogpsummit.org

10/26/2016
OGP Steering Committee approves legislative engagement policy

Parliaments are now officially included in the OGP process!
For more information read below:

http://www.opengovpartnership.org/blog/greg-brown/2016/10/05/ogp-steering-committee-approves-legislative-engagement-policy

5 October 2016 OGP Steering Committee approves legislative engagement policy by Paul MaassenJulia KeutgenMukelani DimbaGreg Brown Last week, the OGP Steering Committee formally approved a new parliamentary engagement policy, which more clearly outlines rules for parliamentary participation in the in...

10/13/2016
How citizens pushed through 5 anti-corruption laws? The story of Reconstruction of the State

How cross party cooperation and civic society pressure brought results in fight against corruption in the Czech republic. In April 2016, NDI brought in cooperation with the Czech parliament, MPs, parliamentary staff and civic society representative united in the Democratic Initiative for Europe group from Bosnia Herzegovina to Prague to meet MPs and activists engaged in the "Reconstruction of the state" campaign to share experiences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Wv1WDakqxqQ

Learn how a group of activists and lawyers got together to change the laws on corruption, transparency, conflict-of-interest and political party finance.

With MP Mimoza Hadarmataj; explanation of the legislative process by Mr.Molla of the Albanian parliament.
10/08/2016

With MP Mimoza Hadarmataj; explanation of the legislative process by Mr.Molla of the Albanian parliament.

Day 2 of the workshop. Mr.Fajtak, Director of the Parliamentary Institute of the Slovak parliament explaining support pr...
10/08/2016

Day 2 of the workshop. Mr.Fajtak, Director of the Parliamentary Institute of the Slovak parliament explaining support provided to MPs by the parliamentary administration.

Democratic Initiative for Europe in Bosnia Herzegovina is a group of MPs representing governing and opposition parties f...
10/07/2016

Democratic Initiative for Europe in Bosnia Herzegovina is a group of MPs representing governing and opposition parties from both entities who have collaborated for over five years on legislation ranging from whistle-blower protection to election reform.

In the Serbian parliament there are six issue based caucuses formed. Formation of a caucus is regulated by the Rules of ...
10/07/2016

In the Serbian parliament there are six issue based caucuses formed. Formation of a caucus is regulated by the Rules of Procedure. One of the most active caucuses is the Economic Caucus chaired by the deputy Speaker Marinkovic (on a photo below). The caucus had 45 meetings in 1.5 years and is behind many reform amendments introduced through the legislative process.

Regional Seminar on Cross Party Cooperation and Operation and Operation of Issue Based Caucuses has just started! NDI br...
10/07/2016

Regional Seminar on Cross Party Cooperation and Operation and Operation of Issue Based Caucuses has just started! NDI brought together MPs and parliamentary staff from the WBS and Slovakia to share experiences from cross party cooperation and support provided by parliamentary administration.

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