Summary: Executive summary The European Union supports the efforts of the Western Balkan countries for reform and regional cooperation through its Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance. Good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation remain key factors for advancing reforms in the countries with a view to EU membership. This briefing focuses on four dimensions: Interparliamentary cooperation, the free movement of people, civil society development and education. The general findings of each of the sections are summarized below: Parliaments, being legislators and most important bodies of representative democracies, play a crucial role in promoting and implementing relevant reforms as well as in increasing the efficiency and transparency of the governing structures of the region. Enhanced parliamentary cooperation and parliamentary diplomacy would contribute to democratisation. The importance of parliamentary diplomacy has been acknowledged by regional organisations. The European Commission in its communication of 5 March 2008 ‘Western Balkans: Enhancing the European Perspective’ highlights the importance of parliamentary cooperation and considers the active involvement of the national parliaments a key determinant for progress for the countries’ EU integration. Most surprisingly, none of the programming documents under scrutiny is dedicated to the issue of parliamentary cooperation. Among the 9 programming documents analysed in this briefing, only the ‘Programme to support in 2007 the Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat’1 addresses the issue of interparliamentary cooperation. The Regional Secretariat in Sofia is the main tool for the development of interparliamentary cooperation. The Regional Secretariat is acting as a liaison office for the regional parliaments and has become the main interlocutor of the European Parliament. It enables a more effective, co-ordinated and institutionalised as well as sustainable c
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