White Schengen List Case Study

By Andrew Rich Post date: Apr 03, 2014


Grupa 484 used its past experiences in the Western Balkans to formulate a project focused on increasing awareness on the issue of visa liberalization in the region.  The project sought to educate the public and shareholders in the included countries and national and international organizations. 

The project started by conducting field and desk research to learn the determinants behind migration, the migration flows of the countries, and the legal situations of the countries.  The project disseminated the finding via a printed study and through organized national round table discussions in each country and a regional conference attended by more than 90 stakeholders and covered by multiple media outlets. Members of the project’s research also made an advocacy trip to Brussels to speak with EU officials.

The project was success by completing all of its goals in gathering and sharing important information on the issue of visa liberalization as well as displaying a sustainable and transferable model.  The discussions and dialogues have opened doors for further talks on the issue now that the shareholders understand the issue.  The core techniques of research and dialogue are relatively simple and depend mainly on prior contacts.

Grupa 484 Background and Experience

Grupa 484 has been working for visa liberalization in the Western Balkan region since 2005 towards the ultimate goal of regional cooperation in the Western Balkans as well as more cooperation with Western Europe, especially potential future membership into the European Union.[1]  Grupa 484’s first project was to encourage democratic developments in the Western Balkans by getting the issue of visa liberalization and migration in the regional political discussions and create relationships with policy makers who would be knowledgeable in the issues and their importance.  They were able to create a team of experts from six countries in the region and this team was able to research specific migration patterns.[2]  The findings from this research were presented in a regional conference and in national round-table discussions.  Additionally the general public was educated via radio and television media as well as the creation of a migration specific website to disseminate the information.

The second project focused on the labor aspect of migration, starting by researching migration trends in relation to the changes in the labor market.  Grupa 484 used the research to demonstrate how a region-wide labor market can be highly beneficial to the region and how other parts of Europe can successfully use immigrant workers from the Western Balkans during times of labor shortages.  This information was successfully relayed to shareholders in the form of people in the academic community, political representatives, and representatives from various embassies, agencies, and NGOs.[3]  By incorporating shareholders from a number of varied backgrounds Grupa 484 was able to bring together many different perspectives, thoughts, and concerns on the issue of migration.

The first two projects gave Grupa 484 valuable information on using migration and visa reform as a tool for democratization.  From the first project they learned that there was a great need for general education on the issue on all level.  Also that the academic community had shown very little interest in migration, therefore there was little research available.  The second project sought to fill in some of the gaps that were made aware of in the first project.  The second project led to expanding Grupa 484’s shareholder and expert base, improving methods of publicizing information on migration, and gained valuable information on what must be done for the desirable parts of labor migration to come to fruition: removal of migration barriers within the Western Balkan nations themselves.[4]

Grupa 484 itself is a socio-humanitarian organization based in Serbia that works in Southeast Europe towards the goal of “work(ing) to build an equal opportunity society, where human rights and diversities are fully respected”.  It is comprised of a six-member Management Board; a five-member Management team of Executive Director, Deputy Director, and three Program Managers; a total of fifteen full time staff works; and approximately 50 co-workers and 30 volunteers who all work on occasion by need and project type.[5]

Third Migration and Visa Liberalization Project Description

The third project builds off of the results of the second by highlighting opportunities to generate policy change in the region on migration, specifically visa-free travel agreements.  The project took place in six West Balkan nations, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Romania.  Grupa 484’s past experiences with migration and new in-depth research into it enabled them to understand the environment of the region for the migration issue.  The loosening of visa restrictions could provide benefits to destination country, the origin country, and the migrants themselves according to Grupa 484’s research.  However the current migration policies are not conductive to migratory movement, both in form of migration from the region to the greater EU and within the region.  Some of the current migration policies are based off of misconceptions, specifically Western European nations being unduly worried about mass migration to the more stable Western Europe from the Balkans.

The third project is based on three main goals, 1) “identify opportunities for creating the Western Balkan regional response to the migration issue and visa liberalization process with EU”, 2) “empower national and regional stakeholders of Western Balkans in the field of visa liberalization”, and 3) “raise awareness of the public in the Western Balkan region on the importance of the migration issue and visa liberalization process with EU”.[6] 

The funds for the project came from fifteen different donors with the UNIDEA, AENEAS, EIDHR, BTD, ISC NOK, Institute for Sustainable Communities, and CCFD being the primary donors.  The total budget for the project was in excess of 630,000 EUR.

Project Activities and Timeframe

The project was a ten month project broken up into nine phases.  The first phase and two months of the project were designated for organizing the teams to be involved as well as creating templates for future reports.  The first of the two teams was the Leading Project Team comprised of the project manager, Vladimir Petronijevic, and his assistants.  The second was the Regional Research Team was made up of persons from each of the six countries selected by the Project Team.  The members of the Research Team were members of Gupa 484’s partner organizations. During the second phase and third month the Research Team was brought to Grupa 484 headquarters in Belgrade.  There they were introduced to the research methods and topics. 

The third phase, the fourth through sixth months, was for “conducting field research on migration potential and its determinants”.[7]  The field research consisted of identifying how likely people from a representative sample were to migrate, then those shown to be likely to migrate were surveyed for their reasons for potential migration, and lastly surveying those who have already migrated for why they did so.  This focus of research was primarily for clarification on the concern of Western European nation towards large scale migration from the Balkans should visa liberalization be realized.  The fourth phase also encompassed the fourth, fifth, and sixth months of the project.  The fourth phase was desk research on migration flows of the countries as well as the legal situations of migration in each.  The desk research was important in being able to provide a context for the field research. 

The fifth phase took place during the seventh month and was used to organize round table discussions in five countries.  Each round table involved “around 20 stakeholders from the government, non-governmental and international organizations, representatives of the academic population and the media”.[8]  The round tables were important in educating the stakeholders on the issue of visa liberalization to give them a valuable understanding to take back to their fields with them.

The sixth phase and eighth month involved conducting a regional conference on visa liberalization.  The conference included “more than 90 participants including members of the academic community, representatives of public and political life and representatives of embassies, UN agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations”.[9]

The seventh phase and ninth month was focused around a two-day advocacy visit to the European Commission in Brussels.  During the visit the Regional Research Team met with various members of EU institutions to discuss and promote visa liberalization in the Western Balkan region.

The eighth phase took place during the tenth month and was used to compile the research from the third phase into a printed study to be shared with “the national and regional shareholders, universities, national libraries, other civic society organizations, media, etc.”[10]  The ninth phase, also during the tenth month was for monitoring and evaluating the project.

Primary Outputs from the Project

The project produced a number of resources meant to raise awareness for the issue of migration and visa liberalization in the region.  Through the Regional Research Team the project was able to have six people from different countries with a great deal of knowledge and understanding on the issue due their involvement with the project who would be able to bring their experience and knowledge back to their national organizations. 

Through the surveys of the general public as well as the dissemination of the final report to universities, libraries, and the media the project was able to educate the public on the issue in addition to building Grupa 484’s knowledge by gaining valuable knowledge from the public.

The round table discussions enabled the project to have productive, nation-specific dialogue on the issue with decision makers in each country.  Attendees of the round table in Serbia was attended by over 50 people and included people such as Božidar Đelić, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration, Milica Delević, EU Integration Office Executive Director, and Thomas Gnnocci from EC Delegation in Serbia.[11]

The regional conference allowed for a dialogue on migration and visa liberalization across the region with multiple panels to address different concerns of the issue.  The panellists were: Bozidar Djelic, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration, Ms Tanja Fajon, MEP and Rapporteur for Visa Liberalisation for WB countries, Mr Samir Rizvo, Head of the B&H Negotiation Team for Visa Liberalisation, Mr Ivan Vejvoda, Executive Director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, Ms Jadranka Jelincic, Executive Director of the Fund for an Open Siciety-Serbia and Ms Hedvig Morvai Horvat Executive Director of the European Fund for Balkans.  Additionally the conference was followed by the great interest of media: FOX, RTS, International Radio of Serbia, TANJUG, FoNet, Politika, RADIO SLOBODNA EVROPA, RADIO 202 etc.[12]

The printed study of the findings and Grupa 484’s website with the findings available for download serve a future reference on the issue accessible to the stakeholders and public in the region as well as people all over the world via the website.  Since the printed study was shared with over 200 stakeholders and the finding have been downloaded over 450 times from the website, the project has been successful in spreading knowledge and awareness on the issue of migration and visa liberalization.[13]

The project came to the conclusion that Western Balkan visa liberalization is possible through greater cooperation within the region.  As it stands most Western Balkan nation have few to none visa agreements with others in the region.  Each country has its own road map tailored to its situation to follow to its own visa liberalization.  The project also learned that visa liberalization is important to the general public for the obvious purpose of easier travel as well as for a sense of pride and camaraderie with the rest of Europe.[14]

Success and Sustainability

Considering how many people the project was able to reach and educate as well as the specific people who were reached the project should be considered successful.  The project fulfilled all of its goals of the research, round table discussions, regional conference, and advocacy trip to Brussels.  The project reached many people who hold important positions of influence and was able to share its knowledge of the issue, what can be gained through visa liberalization, and how it can be achieved.  Also the outreach to the general public was through means such as the survey, media connections, the released findings, and a booth at a popular music festival.[15]  The public outreach was able to educate the public and learn from them the public perception of the issue and what they would like to see from it. Regional cooperation in visa liberalization can lead to better regional cooperation in other topics[16] and visa liberalization as a democratization tool can continue to be used in the region.[17]

Grupa 484 used its knowledge, understanding, and contacts gained from the project to develop a fourth migration project in the Western Balkans on the issue of Brain Drain/Gain.[18]  Also this form of project is transferable to other regions of the world as the core techniques of research, create policy documents, use public events, and have dialogue with policy makers can be used by local and regional organizations all over the world.

[1] Interview with Vladimir Petronijevic

[2] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 4

[3] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 5

[4] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 6

[5] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 7

[6] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 11

[7] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 11-12

[8] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Grant Proposal page 12-13

[9] Grupa 484 Western Balkans Towards White Schengen List Final Report page 3

[10] Grupa 484 White Schengen List Proposal page 14

[11] Grupa 484 Western Balkan Towards White Schengen List Final Report page 2

[12] Grupa 484 Western Balkan Towards White Schengen List Final Report page 4

[13] Grupa 484 Western Balkan Towards White Schengen List Final Report page 4

[14] Interview with Vladimir Petronijevic

[15] Interview with Vladimir Petronijevic

[16] Grupa 484 Western Balkan Towards White Schengen List Final Report page 10

[17] Interview with Vladimir Petronijevic

[18] Grupa 484 Western Balkan Towards White Schengen List Final Report page 7