Western Balkans countries have built a new bridge of regional and cross-border cooperation through the establishment of the Western Balkans Fund, (WBF), based on the model and principles of the International Visegrad Fund.
The establishment of the Western Balkans Fund, in the framework of the Berlin Process, is considered as an important political decision, and also, a significant positive mark of the new cooperation spirit taking roots in the Balkans. Through it, the WB countries give another clear demonstration of their political will for strengthening the good neighborly relations, the spirit of cooperation in the region and towards the European integration processes.
According to the “Agreement for the Establishment of the WBF”, signed by the WB6 Ministers of Foreign Affairs; the WBF is an International Organization of the six Western Balkans countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia. It will be the first as such, to be headquartered in Tirana.
The Fund’s main structures are: the Council of Foreign Ministers - the highest decision-making body, the Council of Senior Officials, the Secretariat and the Executive Director.
The budget of WBF will be created from the equal and annual contribution of the Contracting Parties and from other sources, external donors, organizations etc.
WBF Director Executive designate, Dr. Gjergj Murra, told Albanian Daily News that, the Fund’s main objective is to boost cooperation between member states, strengthen relations, advance integration into the European Union, and by promoting common values among citizens, civil society and regional actors, providing a concrete approach at “people-to-people” level.
According to Dr. Murra, “WBF will work to achieve such goals by supporting joint regional projects as the best way to bring people closer, to share mutual experiences, to better know values, traditions and culture of the respective countries”.
The Fund will support projects, provided that they shall have at least three partners from the countries of the WB and that the topic of the projects shall be related to the Western Balkans Fund scope of work.
WBF will provide funding for small and medium projects aiming to enhance regional cooperation to strengthen regional cohesion in the areas of: education, environmental protection, research, culture, cross-border exchanges and youth cooperation.
The application for funding would be simple and accessible from a wide range of stakeholders aligning from individuals to youth organizations, regional civil society networks, academic and research institutes etc.
The Western Balkans Fund is expected to announce its first Call for Projects by beginning of 2017.