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‘A New Cooperation Mentality Taking Roots in Balkans’

March 27, 2019

In an exclusive interview with Albanian Daily News, Mr. Gjergj Murra the Executive Director of the Western Balkans Fund says that he is proud of the performance of the Fund because within a relatively short period, this organization is becoming an active regional actor, focusing on fostering good neighborly relations, regional cooperation and people to people links in the Western Balkans. 

One of the Western Balkans Fund (WBF) main objectives is to contribute to bringing the region closer to the EU. The WBF is supporting what is known as: “Soft Connectivity”, or otherwise the unification of people, reconciliation and promotion of human mobility in the region. WBF feels encouraged that the Berlin Process is putting emphasis not only on physical infrastructure but also on enhancing contacts and human links in the region and Civil Society Organizations, play an important role in this regard,” has said Gjergj Murra, the Executive Director of the Western Balkans Fund.

Mr. Murra is proud of the performance of WBF because, as he said, within a relatively short period, the Fund is becoming an active regional actor focusing on fostering good neighborly relations, regional cooperation and people to people links in the Western Balkans. He revealed that during the first phase of the operations, the Fund greatly benefited from the support of different partners and collaborators, without which, probably, the pace of developments would not have been the same. “I would like to distinguish in this respect the great support of our main partners and collaborators, International Visegrad Fund, following the model of which Western Balkans fund was created, and Peace Nexus Foundation, a Swiss-based Foundation that provide expertise to organizations committed to preventing conflict and building peace.”

In a comment on Poland’s Presidency of the Berlin Process, the WBF Director was certain that it will enrich the Process with the Central European Countries good experience and know-how on the regional cooperation in dealing with bilateral open issues and reconciliation processes.

The sixth annual Berlin Process Summit will take place on 4 and 5 July, 2019 in the Polish city of Poznan and the Forum of Civil Society Organizations will be held on its margins.

“I have trust that the Poznan Summit, and the Forum of CSO on its margins, will be another positive event, aiming in identifying and pointing out issues of joint interest that can be translated in different concrete actions, aiming at the strengthening of the links and the building of the mutual trust in our region,” said the Executive Director of the Western Balkans Fund, Gjergj Murra in the interview which follows:

  • Some three years have elapsed since the establishment of the Western Balkans Fund. Please, Mr. Murra, could you inform the readers of ADN which have been some the main activities carried out by the Fund and which have been your priority fields?


  • First, let me thank you for this interview and also for your continued interest to the work, achievements and challenges of the Western Balkans Fund (WBF).

    The Western Balkans Fund is an international organization, founded by the governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo *, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Its establishment, as an all-inclusive and regionally owned initiative, is considered as a clear sign of a new cooperation mentality, taking roots in the Balkans. For the first time in such configuration, the WB6 Governments are jointly committed and legally bound to create a meaningful instrument for enhancing regional cooperation. By committing their own resources, they aim to finance regional projects supporting the development and cooperation of the civil society organizations in the Western Balkans.

    After the ratification of the Western Balkans Fund Agreement by the Parliaments of six Contracting Parties, the Fund was officially launched in September 2017. Its Secretariat is located in Tirana and employs international staff from the founding members and includes 5 in-house experts and 3 administrative/local staff. Within a relatively short period, WBF is becoming an active regional actor focusing on fostering good neighborly relations, regional cooperation and people to people links in the Western Balkans Region.

    WBF is already implementing its core mandate and launched its first Call for Proposals in November 2017 with an overall amount of EUR 230,000. While, the 2nd Call for Proposal was launched in November 2018 with an overall amount of EUR 260,000.

    Within the 1st and the 2nd Call for Proposals the WBF has received about 600 project applications with approximately 2,300 organizations participating, either as a lead-applicant or as project partner. The average number of partners per project was 3.7, a clear indicator of the high networking potentials of WBF.


  • What are your impressions on the performance of WBF in the framework of regional cooperation, and which are expectations for the future?


  • In our beautiful region we have many common values that bring us together that need to be known, shown and shared. Knowing better each other and our neighbors, working together towards the same goals is the right path for creating and enriching our regional identity and building our joint European future.

    People in the region are willing to cooperate and their vibrant energy to overcome the boundaries, whether physical or mental, and the huge demand in the region to cooperate, caught even us by surprise.

    The financial opportunities that WBF can provide are very limited in report to this demand. Our greatest concern is that there is a potential risk that the WBF shortcomings in supporting many ideas due to its financial limitations, will discourage future applications. Within the First call we managed to support only 5% of the project proposals, 18 out of 350 in total. This year, we will support 24 projects, since the WBF 6 Contracting parties have decided to double the quotas to the Fund.

    This is a positive development but the figures still remain low. For the near future, we are exploring possibilities of cooperation with other donors, but without strictly altering WBF’s physiognomy, objectives and mission.

    During the first phase of the WBF operations, the Fund greatly benefited from the support of different partners and collaborators, without which, probably, the pace of developments would not have been the same. Of course, not leaving aside the whole team’s hard work and dedication.

    I would like to distinguish in this respect the great support of our main partners and collaborators, International Visegrad Fund, following the model of which Western Balkans fund was created, and Peace Nexus Foundation, a Swiss-based Foundation that provide expertise to organizations committed to preventing conflict and building peace. Our partners support has mainly consisted in building WBF Secretariat capacities and in investing on the recognition of WBF in the region and beyond.


  • Are you satisfied with the coordination of work with all the parties which are members of the WBF?


  • Yes, all the parties, members of WBF, have made great efforts to be constructive and supportive to the work of the WBF Secretariat. Our Ministries of Foreign Affairs, besides their role of decision makers, have acted as real partners in this process.

    Let me underline that, in our view, the situation in the ground allows positive actions, aiming to strengthen regional co-operation and good neighborly relations in our region. From the WBF experience, it looks clear that peoples in the region are willing and ready to work together in regional co-operation projects, activities and actions. The fact that WBF, though a relatively new organization, has mobilized in a very short period of time more than 2300 organizations in cooperating activities, speaks best about it.


  • Mr. Murra, which are your expectations from the Poznan Summit, and how would evaluate the role of the civil society in all these processes? Actually, the Civil Society Forum will take place in Poznan on July 4 this year.


  • One of the WBF main objectives is to contribute to bringing the region closer to the EU. The WBF is supporting what is known as: “Soft Connectivity”, or otherwise the unification of people, reconciliation and promotion of human mobility in the region. WBF feels encouraged that the Berlin Process is putting emphasis not only on physical infrastructure but also on enhancing contacts and human links in the region and Civil Society Organizations, play an important role in this regard.

    In this respect, Poland Presidency of the Berlin Process will certainly enrich the Process with the Central European Countries good experience and know-how on the regional cooperation in dealing with bilateral open issues and reconciliation processes. Having a proven track record in this regard, these countries remain a good example of regional cooperation, including the involvement of civil society organizations.

    I have trust that the Poznan Summit, and the Forum of CSO on its margins, will be another positive event, aiming at identifying and pointing out issues of joint interest that can be translated in different concrete actions, aiming to the strengthening of the links and the building of the mutual trust in our region.
  • This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.