Moderator: It was already mentioned that civil society organizations play a big role and their input should be taken into account and support for them should be increased. That is why we have invited a representative from one NGO. This is the Macedonian Centre for European Training from Skopje, represented by Ms. Lidija Dimova, who is the Executive Director. Please Ms. Dimova, you have 10 minutes for your presentation.

Lidija Dimova: Thank you very much, Mr. Vigenin. First allow me to extend my gratitude for being invited to such an important meeting here in the European Parliament. Before I go and talk about the experience of Macedonia, I would like to say just a word or two about our organization. The Macedonian Centre for European Training is a think-tank organization, although the name says training we are a think-tank, and we try to facilitate the accession process of the Republic Macedonia into the EU, by means of professional training, consultancy, regional cooperation, policy development, and advocacy. Probably, one of our most important projects is the Accession Watch. This is a partnership project that we are implementing in cooperation with the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia. We are a watch-dog organization. We come up with quarterly reports and our last report was about the findings on IPA. How Macedonia is spending, using or benefiting – or not benefiting – from the money coming from the European Union. There is another study that I can recommend if you are interested, that was recently closed on how Macedonia benefits from the Community Programmes, i.e., whether the Community Programmes are Europeanizing society or not. These are available on our website.

Now about IPA, as one of the instruments available for the country. I was thinking what to say, and I realized that in the agenda you are waiting to hear about some of the problems, because from these problems there will be lessons learned for the Parliament and the Commission. If you were looking forward for problems, boy do I have problems for you! I’ve got so many problems… Unfortunately, unlike Croatia, Macedonia’s story is not a successful one. How do I go about speaking about the problems? I tried to group them into four major clusters, and I grouped them more in terms of where can you see them going.

First is the group on lack of institutional capacity. I will give you the figures so that you can understand what I am talking about. At this particular point of time, under Component I, almost half of national IPA 2007 was actually contracted at the end of 2010, which means that at this specific point of time we still have projects from IPA 2007. Half of National IPA 2008 was contracted at the end of 2011, which means they will be implemented in 2012 and 2013, and bear in mind that we are talking about IPA 2008. Only 1.8 % of National IPA 2009 is absorbed so far, and only 1.5 % of National IPA 2010 is absorbed so far. I think there is no need to come up with a conclusion; you understand what I am trying to say.

Number 2 is lack of administrative capacity. There are four major points that I want to make about this. First is programming vs. projects. Very often you hear the government representatives saying that the reason why we can’t spend the money from IPA is because we do not get reliable projects from stakeholders. This tells you that the government does not understand that the stakeholders do not come up with the projects just like that; they have to be put within a programming framework. There has to be something strategic about it. This speaks for itself.

Then, if you look inside the nitty-gritty bits, you see that in Macedonia, for example, you have too much use of the Project Preparation Facility. The average in the region would be 3 % of the budget used for preparation of projects, while in Macedonia this share is from 5 to 15%. This is bad, but if you look at what this is used for, you come to the conclusion that most of these funds are used for drafting Terms of References and then it becomes a really sad story – you do not have civil servants knowledgeable enough to draft Terms of References.

If you analyze the whole IPA in the country, you will see that some sectors do not have a single EURO programmed. For example, such is the case with Chapter 19: Employment. Of course, if you are the Government – or the Commission – you would say that the country has the whole Component IV. This is what Component IV stands for – employment. I put forward the question if this is enough. Is this enough to leave the whole employment area not-tackled, without any kind of institutional building, especially in a country where the level of unemployment is so high.
Then we have a very high level of turnover of staff in key institutions. I think the problem with this is the politicization of public administration, because in the last several years the only way you can get into public administration is if you belong to one of the political parties in the ruling government. Once you get into public administration, you benefit from EU funds and training, and you begin to understand certain things, but all of a sudden the party realizes that you have some capacity and they take you away from the institution where you were and put you in a different institution where the political party needs you best, for example, a director of some public enterprise. So, the institutions are very much weakened, without any consideration of the detriment that is done with this process.

Number 3 is a set of problems I call “no instrument mix”. First of all, I think there is lack of strategic input by the government. The government does not want you to understand that you can use IPA Component I. This is a public debate. The government does come out and say that Component I is only for central government administration, which is not entirely true. What I am trying to say is that if they can see that schools, unions, Roma organizations, municipalities, farmers, SMEs will benefit from Component III, IV and V, then they should use Component I to build their capacity so that these groups would be able to benefit from the other components. However, this is not done.
Then, IPA is almost entirely used as technical assistance in Macedonia. This means that you are using IPA as though it is CARDS. If you compare the rules, it is completely the same thing as CARDS. Grant schemes are used only twice. The first grant scheme is from IPA 2008 and it was for the civil society within IPA Component I. I have to say, this is one of the most successful projects. Then there is the other grant scheme managed by the government, which is the first grant scheme managed by the government under the decentralized model and concerns Component IV. This is a story in itself. The call for proposals was announced in June 2010 and concerned the integration of ethnic women in the labour market. The budget available was 1.6 million EUR. Up to date, the contracts have still not been signed. It’s taken almost two years to contract 1.6 million EUR. The question is: what is going to happen with the rest of the money, if the government takes two years to contract such a small amount of money?

Problem number 3 is improper use of twinning. I am sad to say that I have the feeling that to avoid de-commitment, the Commission is saving the government by programming projects that are not plausible. I will give you an example so that you do not think that I am speaking from the top of my head. Under component IV, there is a twinning project for the Centre for Adult Education. The twinning project is worth 1.7 million EUR. Do you know how large is the annual budget of this institution? It is only 220,000 EUR. In effect, what you are doing is that you are giving eight times more money to an institution for a twinning project. It is spelt disaster, just by looking at it. You cannot expect any results from here.
Budget support, I am not going to talk about the budget support because the representative from the Court of Auditors already said something about budget support. I know that the government now is trying to get budget support and I hope they do not get it, because we have local elections coming next year and yes, the government has been known to have misused money, even European money, by the Agency for example, but I am not going into that.

Another thing that I would like to mention is the fourth group of problems – the lack of political will. I am going to mention some of the things that are going on and that do not make any sense. For example, except for Cross-Border Cooperation (Component II), all the rest of the operational programmes have not been even translated into Macedonian language, not to mention Albanian language. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that the government spends loads of money for translation of books, but why they think these documents are not worth translation I do not know. They are not translated.
Something was mentioned earlier about donor coordination. I think this is also a very interesting thing. Macedonia is giving 13.2 million USD to UNDP for implementing active employment measures. How does this fit within Component IV? If you know that the Employment Agency is the backbone of Component IV, then why give money to UNDP to implement something that the Employment Agency needs to do? I am just putting forward the questions.

Macedonia does not have National Development Plan. I know that MIPD 2012-2013 for Macedonia says that there is a National Development Plan, and I know that the revision of the Operational Programme for Component IV on Human Resource Development says that there is a National Development Plan, but – no – there is no National Development Plan. There has not been a National Development Plan for such a long time. There is a story about it, and I am not going go into it. This tells you how difficult it must be for civil servants to start programming without a National Development Plan.

At the end I want to tell one more thing about the General IPA Auditor. This is something that sounds very strange. First of all, the person that is the General IPA Auditor in the country is a person who is in love with the Prime Minister. If you visit his Facebook profile, you will see that there are no pictures of him – it is all about the Prime Minister. He is not an economist, nor an auditor, he is a legal expert. He was the previous director at the Public Enterprise on Management with Residential and Business Property. He was the guy who actually was buying the government bonds for the Prime Minister. This is our General IPA Auditor. If you read the Progress Report, the Commission is saying that there are problems here, but they are saying it in a very politically correct manner, in order to put things into perspective.

Just one more sentence! I know what you are all thinking and wondering why do I need to say all these things to you and that you cannot help a democratically elected government. I understand that, but this is the European Parliament. You are representing the people of the European Union, not the governments. I need to stress the importance of how difficult it is for the citizens of Macedonia. We have been stuck in the hallway since 2005, no negotiations whatsoever. We have a problem with Greece that does not make any sense. We have very high level of unemployment, we have a poverty line which is very high, and we have a government who does not really understand democracy. Still, the people are in favour of European integration. That speaks for itself. Macedonians are Europeans. Thank you.

Moderator: I think we should more often invite representatives from civil society. I am sure the presentation of Madam Dimova was very important for the Members of the European Parliament as well, because very often we discuss the big strategies and the nice picture, but there are some realities on the ground that we should also take into account. That is why I thank you for this presentation.