Written by Juhani Ailio, HA Neighbours Coordinator

One of the sub-tasks of HA Neighbours is to cooperate with the other macro-regional strategies. This task gives us the opportunity to also endulge in little and friendly industrial espionage. As we are in contact with our colleagues outside our own strategy we get to see how others are grappling with sometimes the exact same issues as we are and what strategies and action they have applied to overcome them.

HA Neighbours visited the Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) in Sofia, Bulgaria and got to know the strategy a little better, namely the Participation Day concept. In the EUSDR this concept is created to increase civil society participation in the Strategy and it is an integral part of the Annual Forum. This is an event which is “for participatory governance and involvement in the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, which event offers the opportunity to exchange, network and to further develop ideas and projects in the Danube Region.”

But what is more interesting in terms of the EUSBSR and HA Neighbours are the National Participation/Hearing Days which are linked to the Annual Forum’s Participation Day. These National Participation Days are organized multiple times a year and are always organized in a different country of the Strategy. These events “inform and gather representatives of the public sector at national and local level (ministries, regional administrations, cities, national agencies, NCP, PACs, etc.) and the interested stakeholders active at national level, thus furthering exchange of information at all levels.” So not only the civil society is encouraged to participate in the discussion about the Strategy but also the policymakers. This way the civil society (and all other levels of potential stakeholders) in each country has a gate through which to reach the Strategy and the Strategy has an important source of information from the bottom up.

The original need that the Participation Day’s concept was created to serve was and is to encourage the participation of the civil society. But we can easily see that it does offer more than just that. The National Hearing Days are a great way to increase the visibility of the Strategy on national level and give it a more weight on national policymakers agendas. This concept used in at least some of our neighbouring countries could prove to be extremely useful.

There is vast potential in learning from other strategies and their work as we can see from just this one example. Now that we are moving towards the renewal of the Action Plan of the EUSBSR we should keep this in mind as well. We need to remember that we can achieve much more when we have the best tools and skills and that we do not always have to reinvent the wheel.

For more information about the National Hearing Days in the Danube strategy see the website of PA10 Institutional Capacity.

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