How to Build Democratic Institutions?

First 2015 installment of our Regional Academy for Democracy opened this February in a serene surrounding, in Pr┼żno, Montenegro. Within the yearly theme of “Building Democratic Institutions”, the seminar addressed good governance and the achievements of democratic transitions in the region.

Our Dean for the year is Mr. Pierre Mirel, who addressed the participants in his opening speech, challenging them to consider the eroding trust in traditional democratic institutions in modern societies. According to Mirel, the countries of the Western Balkans have been asking the EU for guidance through the process of institutional reform, and he pointed out the value, in this sense, of the OECD/EU SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management) project, which has developed tools to offer a road map for further reforms. On the other hand, Mr. Mirel asserted that the main force responsible for these reforms are young leaders who should push for a different attitude from the one which is currently the most used among political leaders, and that is passing blame. Addressing regional cooperation, he turned towards the tenets of liberal democracy, which are competition, cooperation and solidarity, where the latter still remains residual. In order to strengthen solidarity, Mr. Mirel proposed a shift towards connecting professional organizations, such as bar associations or chambers of commerce and translating them into a regional context.

The participants were also welcomed by the Council of Europe’s new Director of Policy Planning, Mr. Matjaz Gruden, and His Excellency Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Mr. Kamsvag spoke of cooperation in challenging environments, especially of Norway’s cooperation with Russia and the framework of the Arctic Council.

During the four day event, the participants discussed achievements of democratic transitions and regional cooperation in the Western Balkans with the RCC Secretary General Mr. Goran Svilanovic, spoke of the role of political parties in building democratic institutions with RAD alumni, and were addressed by Ms. Karen Hill, the head of SIGMA.

The lectures were countered by participant-led workshops on building party structures, the role of women in politics and institution-building, and the challenges in policy coordination, as well as an open debate on political culture and institution building in the Western Balkans (led by Leon Malazogu, Executive Director of the D4D Institute based in Pristina, and Olivera Komar, professor at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Montenegro).

The participants also received an overview of the current state of the EU integration process of Montenegro, the host country of the seminar, by Ms. Gordana Djurovic, professor of economics and former Minister for European Integration of Montenegro.

This generation of 49 participants from all Western Balkan countries includes a large number of MPs, senior political party officials, leaders in local governments and assemblies, as well as a smaller number of representatives of the public administration and civil society. The group will meet again at the next RAD seminar on 16-19 April 2015 in Croatia.