Fostering OSF Alumni Network of Serbia and the Western Balkans


On the 19th and 20th of November 2015, in hotel "Palas" in Belgrade a regional alumni conference of the Open Society Foundations "Mind the Gap: Bridging Research and Policy Development and European Integration of the Balkans" was held. The conference brought together participants from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo* who were scholars of the Sholarship Programme of the Open Society Foundations. The aim of this regional event was to increase regional cooperation in the Western Balkans as well as to strengthen the role of the alumni of the Open Society Foundations in the social, political and educational dialogue. In manner to achieve those aims, representatives of research and academic institutions, as well as representatives of the decision-making sector have taken participation in the conference. This event was organized by Belgrade Open School as the final activity of the project Fostering OSF Alumni Network of Serbia and the Western Balkans.

At the opening of the conference participants were addressed by Deputy Director for Scholarships of the Open Society Foundation, Audrone Uzieliene and Milorad Bjeletic, executive director of the Belgrade Open School. In her opening statement Ms Uzieliene stressed that the Foundations has, since the mid-eighties, supported the training of students from the Western Balkans and will continue to do so in the form of scholarships, grants and research grants. Mr. Bjeletic has provided more information on the cooperation of the BOS and the OSF on scholarship programs, thanks to which more than 500 students received the opportunity to expand their knowledge on some of the most prestigious universities in the US and Europe.

First session Bridging Research and Policy Development and European Integration of the Balkans brought the debate about the place of research in the process of creation and implementation of public policies. At this panel discussion their experience in the research, creation and advocacy of policy papers shared Gazela Pudar Drasko, a researcher from the Centre for Ethics, Law and Applied Philosophy from Serbia, Vlado Dedovic, director of the Center for Monitoring and Research from Montenegro, Damjan Zdravev, president of the Reactor - Research in action from Macedonia and Albana Rexha, researcher from the Group of Legal and Political Studies from Kosovo. This panel discussion was moderated by Vladimir Pavlovic, policy coordinator of the Belgrade Open School. Panelists discussed the role of researchers in the shaping of policies, the problems that researchers in the Western Balkans are facing in obtaining relevant data, the reasons for why there is not enough cooperation between researchers and decision-makers.

At the second part of the first day of the conference there was a presentation of the policy briefs produced by the conference participants under the supervision of Belgrade Open School. Researchers have focused on issues that they are expert in, issues that are important in their state of origin, but also which are of importance for the EU accession process. On this, the second session a total of ten policy brief's were presented*.

  • (De)centralisation of the Labour Market in Serbia - Risks and Opportunities for the Youth

Authors: Aleksandra Simic and Dragan Stanojevic/Serbia

  • The Hurdles for the University Autonomy in Macedonia - The Case of Law on High Education

Author: Ana Pavlovska Daneva/Macedonia

  • Towards EU 2020 Goals in Education: Improving Policy Framework and Practicies in Kosovo

Author: Armend Muja/Kosovo

  • Challenges to Parliamentary Oversight and Accountability of Independent Agencies in Kosovo

Author: Blerim Vela/Kosovo

  • From Wrong Transposition to False Implementation - the Case of Waste Management Regulation in Macedonia

Authors: Dragan Milkovski and Tijana Angjelkovska/Macedonia

  • Fighting Discrimination in Serbia: Role of the Media

Author: Dejan Mavrovic/Serbia

  • Protection in Practice: Aligning Environmental and Consumer Law and Policy in Serbia with EU Acquis

Authors: Mihajlo Vucic and Mateja Djurovic/Serbia

  • Great Expectations - Grounding EU Gender Equality Principles into Serbian Policy

Author: Milana Lazic/Serbia

  • Mass influx of Syrian asylum Seekers and European Asylum Crisis: Dealing with the Emerging Challenges in Serbia

Author: Olga Mitrovic/Serbia

  • Macedonia’s Prospects on Reaching the 2020 Energy Policy Targets

Author: Dragana Nikodinovska/Macedonia

* The works are copyrighted work of researchers and do not necessarily convey the views of the Belgrade Open School.

The presentation of individual works, was followed by a group discussion in the form of forums. This form of the discussion made it possible to meet and exchange views between participants on the presented works.

Training From Research to Advocacy - Understanding the Importance of Evidence-Based Policy Making in European Integration Process that was held by Stevan Vujasinović, an expert on communications policy of the United Nations Development Programme, Vladimir Pavlovic and Mirko Popovic, coordinator of the Center for European Integration of Belgrade Open School marked the second day of the conference. Improving communication between researchers and decision-makers is a prerequisite for successful advocacy of policy - the main message that was discussed. In addition, coaches and participants discussed the role of the policy briefs in research. Emphasis was placed on policy briefs as a mean of solving the problem which is placed as the aim of the research. The role of researchers in the process of accession to the European Union was another topic of this session. Evidence-based policy papers, tailored to the social context of the country from which researchers come from are an important means of accelerating the process of accession to the European Union.

You can find the detailed program of the Conference here.