EU Neighbourhood Info Centre An ENPI project The People Behind the Projects
Medieval Bruges the gateway to 21st century public administration
Interview with Stéphanie Horel
Civil servants from 14 countries of the European Neighbourhood descend on the Collegeof Europe in Bruges to become students again, if only for three days. They come here tounderstand how the EU works, what it stands for and how it interacts with the outsideworld. Armed with this knowledge, they go back home to carry through policy decisions that their country has agreed with the EU, says Stéphanie Horel, team leader of the “Preparing staff for EU-ENP related jobs” project, in an interview with the EU Neighbourhood Info Centre.
What is the project trying to achieve? The idea behind this project is to enhance the skills and the knowledge of civil servants in the public administration of partner countries. They will be the people to implement the policy decisions agreed between the EU and their country. Another major aspect is networking. It’s an inter-regional project and a rare opportunity to gather around the table people from 14 countries working on the same topics. After spending a few days here at the College of Europe they gain not only knowledge but also professional bonds with their counterparts in other partner countries. Who selects the candidates and how?
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To begin with, the European Commission asks the embassy of each partner country in Brussels to coordinate the nomination of a focal point within their national public administration. This would be a government official in one of the ministries, whose role is to spread the word about our project and make the initial selection of the candidates. At the early stage of our project we relied on the focal points in assessing the needs of each country. So we sent around questionnaires and visited all the capitals to meet the relevant people in the ministries and schools of public administration. This preliminary work helped us to work out the curricula. This is a series of interviews with We received the CVs and took part in choosing the candidates, but leaders of projects involved in eventually it was the European Commission that decided on the final the Neighbourhood, prepared by the EU Neighbourhood selection. Info Centre © 2014
Interview with Stéphanie Horel EU Neighbourhood Info Centre - An ENPI project
How do you choose topics for the seminars that would be relevant for both regions?
“Being outside your own country can be stimulating, and our participants sometimes come up with ideas and find new ways of interaction.” “We observe a big turnover of highly qualified staff in our partner countries’ public administration, which jeopardises the long-term impact of the project.”
There are some core topics that we address, such as how the EU is organised and how it functions. Actually, it would also be useful for people in the public administration of EU member states to have a crash course on these subjects every now and then. Otherwise we are looking at inter-regional issues, relevant both for the South and the East, such as agriculture, environment, energy and climate change. We need to bear in mind that the level of relations between the EU and each partner country is different so we cannot be too specific in developing the topics. For example, at one of the seminars we addressed legal approximation without going into the detailed discussion of any particular sector. The idea is to focus on the methodology that would interest all 14 countries, looking at ways of organising this effectively in public administration. Some of the topics we discuss are more relevant for the South, for example agriculture, or energy for the East. Trade is important for both regions. In identifying the topics, we coordinate our work with the EU-funded instruments that seek to support public administration in the ENPI countries, namely TAIEX, Twinning and SIGMA. We are complementary to them, since our project provides basic general knowledge, whereas these instruments ensure the transfer of a specific experience or practical skills relevant for a given country At each seminar, we have 3-4 participants per country coming from different government institutions. We discovered that in some countries coordination between the ministries is complicated so they need an external actor to help them. To give you an example, for the seminar on research, development and innovation, we bring together people from ministries of research, higher education, industry and foreign affairs who only have rare occasions to meet and work together on EU related issues. Being outside your own country can be stimulating, and our participants sometimes come up with ideas and find new ways of interaction. How are your seminars organised? We have organised a total of sixteen three-day seminars divided in ten modules: eight modules of knowledge and two modules of skills. The first introduces, inter alia, the institutions and policies – the EU, the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean. The second focuses on EU-related project management and negotiations. The EU is so complicated that it’s already an advantage to understand how it works. Even a bigger advantage is to know how to lobby the EU institutions. What do you consider as your most important achievements? First and foremost, we succeed in bringing together people from all neighbourhood countries. Besides, we manage to do a lot during the seminar – much along the lines that we achieve during the academic year at the College of Europe. In the course of the training, participants develop what we call in French esprit de corps – the sense of belonging to a group where people share common interests and enthusiasm. Human and professional bonds emerge, so back home they feel they are not alone but can always call their colleagues and discuss a problem if needed. Also we discovered that our project contributes to improving cooperation within the public administrations of partner countries. Right from the start when civil servants in the ministries are informed about the selection process and start looking for the right candidates, they have to work as a team, which in turn helps them develop a more strategic view of the country’s objectives and of what the government needs to do. Let me give you an example. During our seminars, participants often raise the question of the EU’s country progress reports. The EU never asks us for the data, they argue, and we do not necessarily agree with the conclusions of these reports. Once a participant from Georgia suggested: “Why don’t we produce our own progress reports? The citizens will be able to compare the EU’s conclusions
Interview with Stéphanie Horel
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre - An ENPI project
“Ideally, our seminars should help create clusters of knowledge in the public administrations of partner countries.”
with our own assessment.” This proposal came out of one of our seminars, and everybody said – yes, it’s a good idea. Such an exercise requires coordination between different ministries and strategic thinking, which is exactly what the EU expects – to have partners, who are capable of coming up with proposals, arguing their positions and negotiating. What are the biggest challenges that you are facing in your project? The biggest challenge is its sustainability. This is a difficult issue particularly given the unstable situation in some Neighbourhood Countries. We observe a big turnover of highly qualified staff in our partner countries’ public administration, which jeopardises the long-term impact of the project. People often move from public service to the private sector. For us it’s a serious loss, because we train these civil servants, invest in them and we would like to see them stay in their jobs so they could carry through those ideas we are discussing here. Ideally, our seminars should help create clusters of knowledge in the public administrations of partner countries. For this to happen, our alumni should be able to pass down the skills they have learned here at the College of Europe to their colleagues back home – through conferences, seminars or in any other way. The word has to be spread…
EU Neighbourhood Centre PreparingInfo staff for EU-ENP related jobs An ENPI project www.eu-enprelatedjobs.eu
Trains selected civil servants from partner countries in order to enhance their professional skills and knowledge of the EU and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria*, Tunisia, Ukraine * EU Cooperation with Syria is currently suspended due to the political situation
The project aims to improve the professional skills and ENP-specific knowledge of relevant staff from within the civil service and public administrations of ENP partner countries in order to enable to them to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as other relevant EU policies. The project is designed to improve the effectiveness of policies and the relationship between the EU and the neighbourhood countries, and to help deepen political dialogue and cooperation with each of the neighbours. Find out more
EU Neighbourhood EU Info Centre Neighbourhood Info Centre – programme fiche
€ 2 million
An ENPI project
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre An ENPI project The EU Neighbourhood Info Centre is an EU-funded Regional Communication project highlighting the partnership between the EU and Neighbouring countries. The project is managed by Action Global Communications.
Interview with Stephanie Horel in English