• 09 May 2018


    Category : Opinion

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    Europe Day: 20 years of twinning

    On the occasion of Europe Day, we learn about the history of twinning projects. 20 years of peer-to-peer cooperation in the European Union, with FIIAPP as one of the largest operators


    International cooperation starts at home. While reaching the furthest corners shows its ability to promote standards and contribute to institution building in the most fragile countries, looking closer to home may be more complicated and necessary than we think.


    We are talking about the sustainable development goals and an international framework that aims to change the global picture in relation to poverty, climate change and inequality, the results of which should be visible in the next decade. However, in this quest for global change, without wishing to downplay the issue, we must bear in mind that cooperation between Europe and its neighbouring countries (from the Maghreb to the Caucasus) is still as important as it was 20 years ago, when the European Commission first set up its twinning programme.


    An instrument for institutional dialogue


    With the aim of disseminating the institutional model of its member countries and creating a framework for dialogue between peers, the European Commission created a new on-demand instrument in 1998: twinning. Since their inception, the twinning projects have proved to be a useful tool in helping candidate countries align their legislation with the EU’s institutional framework, share good practices and strengthen the rule of law.


    It is also an instrument that has grown and developed over the last 20 years. Born as a tool dedicated solely to the candidate countries, it now includes neighbouring European countries and has become a complex form of technical cooperation that has undertaken more than 2,700 initiatives since its inception.


    The most important feature of the twinning projects is their results-based approach, as it was one of the first EU cooperation instruments to focus on specific and mandatory results. While this impact-based vision is now firmly ensconced, it has not always been so commonplace for the majority of donors.


    In addition, the twinning programme was also the Commission’s first foray into on-demand projects. A vision that has now spread to other regions, but which continues to have its roots in these pioneering initiatives.


    The recognition the programme has received from other European institutions is an additional argument for being aware of the impact these projects have had over the last 20 years. For example, the EU Court of Auditors emphasises that twinning has the capacity to act as a “catalyst to launch reform in the candidate countries by bringing together experts from Member States and candidate country administrations and promoting the adoption of EU legislation”.


    FIIAPP, one of the largest European operators


    FIIAPP, as the only Spanish institution responsible for managing these EU projects, has implemented over 350 twinning projects and it is one of the most important European twinning operators.


    There have been many success stories among these projects, but it is worth discussing the projects implemented by FIIAPP that are highlighted in the EU’s own annual activity report. To illustrate this we can take the example of the 2016 report, which discusses Tunisia and the way the projects undertaken in the region have contributed to the country’s democratic transition.


    Specifically, the project to support the Ministry of Justice has helped to modernise the selection and training of judicial personnel in the country. These have been concrete advances, key to aligning the justice sector with international standards.


    The case of Tunisia and its institutional needs in the post-Arab spring context is just one example of how FIIAPP supports the modernisation and democratisation of public administration through this type of project. Other examples cover topics as diverse as migration, social policies, rights, economic development, communications, security and the green economy.


    FIIAPP, together with other European operators, is contributing to the development of this instrument and its participation and involvement in different working groups on the future of Twinning. This is a sign of the EU’s commitment to this funding tool.


    Future prospects for the twinning instrument


    In recognition of the success of this instrument, the Commission is considering extending it to other regions, such as Latin America and the Caribbean. Given its broadening from an instrument dedicated solely to candidate countries to its application in other European neighbours, this extension seems possible.


    However, a convincing argument on the advantages of this framework, for example, in comparison to initiatives funded by the Development Cooperation Instrument, remains to be made.


    While in the case of Latin America a similar regulatory framework can facilitate this type of undertaking, in other regions the work that remains is even greater if twinning is to be transformed into a global instrument, applicable to EU cooperation policy in various parts of the world. FIIAPP’s contribution may be relevant and timely in this regard given its experience with this funding instrument.


    Daniela Serban, Technician in FIIAPP’s Strategy Department

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.