ConWeb Network will intend to achieve its core objectives through implementation of various projects and programmes. Projects will be developed, structured and implemented in partnership with different national, regional and/or international partners depending on the areas of intervention and supported and financed by various donors and international organisations.
In the period 2015-2016 ConWeb Network was taking part in implementation of two regional projects supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Open Regional Fund for South East Europe-Modernisation of Municipal Services: 1. Strengthening of consumer organizations for better municipal services in South East Europe; and 2. Regional model for smart reporting system in municipal services for citizens.
Currently ConWeb Network is implementing a regional project “Development of collective redress for consumers in South East Europe” supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Open Regional Fund for South East Europe-Legal Reform until October 2018.
The project “Regional model for smart reporting system in municipal services for citizens”, that we implemented in cooperation with partner organizations from the region: National Consumer Organization of Serbia (NOPS), the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South East Europe (SEE), the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED), Consumer Organization of Macedonia (OPM), the Community associations of local government in the Republic of Macedonia (ZELS), association of municipalities of Montenegro (UoM). It is financed by GIZ ORF MMS, and as a leader of the project, the NGO Milieukontakt Macedonia. This project aims to identify the conditions for the development and implementation of such a reporting system in the municipalities in Southeast Europe, by ensuring a dialogue between associations of local governments and consumer organizations, to assess the sustainability of the system and agree on its management structure. The reporting system will rely on the smartphone and web platforms. The idea is that people use their mobile phones as a tool that allows you to communicate with each other. Take a picture of the problem directly through the application notify the municipality, but also can monitor what the authorities did to fix the problem. After you download the app, citizens have an overview of reported problems in the municipality in the areas that interest them, but also the reaction of the institutions. The system should not be seen only as a system of complaints and monitor whether they are resolved or not, but citizens need to become active participants in their respective fields. As one of the activities is to develop a questionnaire with representatives of municipalities and public utilities, which are related to research on existing and sustainable solutions for communication between citizens and the authority of local government / public utilities, in respect of reporting and solving municipal problems, especially via mobile phone (including a smart phone app).
The project envisages several meetings, including one study visit.
First meeting of the Steering Committee of the project (kick-off event) was held at the Hotel Romance in Veles (Macedonia) from 21 to 22 January 2015. The aim of this meeting was to bring together all partner organizations, in order to join in the coordination of project activities, as well as to formally appoint the members of the Project Steering Committee.
Study Visit (Germany and the Netherlands 22-27 March 2015)
In the period from 22-27 March 2015, we were in a study visit to Germany and the Netherlands, which was organized and financially supported by the Open Regional Fund for modernization of municipal services.
Through this study visit, we had the opportunity to see real examples of functioning of the municipalities in the Netherlands and Germany, we get acquainted with the functioning of this system and thus gained considerably more practical experience when it comes to this area. In Eindhoven, we met with Mr. Paul Smeets, chief manager for the city of Eindhoven, and certain areas of the city, which manages the system of smart reporting. The system in Eindhoven, is functioning for five years, and its overall implementation required the investment of 600,000 euros.
– The biggest advantage of smart reporting system is to reduce the cost of the municipality, as well as the speed of solving problems, says Paul Smeets.
One of the main priorities of the public administration of the city of Utrecht, in terms of decision-making process on public interests are citizens’ initiatives. Communication between the institution involved in the one hand and citizens on the other hand is very important and primarily takes place electronically. Citizens are thus able to report certain problems, but even more important is the fact that they have the ability to competent institutions to submit their initiatives to improve the environment in which they live.
– What is really important is that we want to build Utrecht together, which means that we as a municipality will not build anything separately, but together and in consultation with citizens. The sense of ownership is very important, because on the one hand the city belongs to everyone, but on the other hand, all have a responsibility in this regard. This is what we all strive to achieve common in Utrecht, told us Mrs. Marieke Hellevoort, project manager for e-participation of citizens in this city.
In the opinion of civil servants in the municipality of Utrecht, it’s not just about the system that is being implemented, but a way of life and thinking. Representatives of municipalities and citizens meet and openly discuss issues in order to achieve common interests. Therefore, it is necessary primarily to raise awareness of citizens and their representatives in local government.
Very inspiring example of self-initiative is a project of revitalization of old production facilities in the industrial zone of the city. This area was the center of the metal industry only 20 years ago. Today’s economic capacities are based on sophisticated technologies and creative industries and abandoned warehouses and workshops, are a place where local artists and architects can express their creativity for economic development purposes.
– This has been forgotten and abandoned locations in Utrecht, but now more people are interested in the history of this place, a number of companies that are willing to invest here increases, so it is an often-visited and economically viable location, says Mrs. Marleen Laverman from the Association of friends of Cartesio of Utrecht.
The whole activity is also financially supported by the municipal budget and from companies in neighboring countries, and additional revenues generated by creating various items for numerous festivals held in Utrecht during the summer months, for which the city is also known.
Darmstadt and Frankfurt
During the visit in Darmstadt and Frankfurt, hosts of these cities pointed out that the first step in the implementation is providing information to citizens about upcoming activities, consultations and discussion forums. It was also noted that a certain mechanism, no matter how technologically advanced, can not successfully function without the active participation of citizens. Besides the fact that citizens can report infrastructure problems, also have the option to vote electronically in relation to issues that have priority in solving for the municipality.
Before the system is established, people have seen problems, for example. during a relaxing walk around the city on weekends, but simply they did not have the motivation to report them to the city administration, because they had to remember what exactly was the problem, to come home and write e-mail or phone them. Now you can report problems as soon as you notice. They have the ability to simultaneously requests a few problems, as is often the case, because they realize that the problems can be resolved quickly, says dr. Tobias Klug from the company “Wer Denkt Was”, which has developed an application for smartphones Mängelmelder for reporting deficiencies.
As municipal representatives during a meeting in the City Administration in Frankfurt explained, regardless of whether a person wants to report a problem or to vote on certain priority projects, only ones can be registered in the system. The essence of this operation is the transparency of the relevant institutions, to give immediate and clear insight into what they do or not to interested citizens. On the other hand, the problem of categorization clearly define responsibilities for addressing a particular issue, which saves both, time and money.
In the period from 24-26 June 2015 in Palić (Serbia) was held the second meeting of the Steering Committee, which brought together all the partners organizations – participating in the project. The meeting also presented the final reports of each of the organizations, which were then adopted by all members of the board. Participants discussed the next steps in the project and gave their suggestions when it comes to the technical part of this application.
The attendees at the meeting, set the date for the next, and also the last meeting of the board at this stage of the project, which will be held in Montenegro.
Strengthening the regional cooperation in the field of collective redress for consumers in South East Europe is the central focus of a running project funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Open Regional Fund for South East Europe – Legal reform.This will be achieved by carrying out a comparative legal analysis on “Collective redress mechanisms in light of the European Commission Recommendation (2013/396/EU) on common principles for injunctive and compensatory collective redress mechanisms emphasizing cross-national comparisons, underlining issues of commonality and difference” aiming to detect the existing deficits and different obstacles for an adequate enforcement of collective redress according to the consumer protection laws in SEE countries and to develop relevant suggestions for the improvement of the situation.
The study will present the legislative and institutional framework and legal practice on collective redress with an emphasis on damages claims in selected EU member states (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and England / Wales) and SEE countries. The Study’s recommendations and conclusions will provide the responsible institutions and organisations with solid basis for exchange, which will entail the development of a Regional Action Plan to strengthen capacities for implementing collective redress and handling collective claims, preparation and delivery of three training modules and implementation of a regional awareness campaign on collective redress to improve services of the Consumer protection organisations members of the Consumer Organisations Network South East Europe (ConWeb).
The project was launched on 1st of January 2017 in duration of 22 months. The key project partners are ConWeb (Consumer Organizations Network South East Europe) and SEELS (South East European Law School Network) and the key international partner is the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL).
The aim of the project “Strengthening of consumer organizations for better municipal services in South East Europe” is to strengthen the capacity of consumer organizations to advocate for the rights of users of municipal services in Southeastern Europe. The project is funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Open Regional Fund for Modernization of Municipal Services and conducted by a network of research centers dealing with European policies in South East Europe – TEN, consisting of the Center for European Policy (CEP), the Institute for European policy (EPI) from Macedonia and the Institute Alternative (IA) from Montenegro.
The project involved the national consumer organizations from three countries (COM from Macedonia, CEZAP from Montenegro and NOPS from Serbia), while the consumer protection organizations from other countries in the region are gradually included in the project.
Implementation of the project will be conducted through a set of work packages that will be focused on the following activities: development of regional studies and the adoption of action plans to advocate for consumer organizations, organizing a dialogue between all stakeholders and preparing a strategy to raise consumer awareness, and the establishment of regional consumer organizations – ConWeB with the clear objective of joining the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).
Estimated time for project implementation is 13 months, and implementation was started in February 2015.
Project Kick-off meeting
The project Kick-off meeting was held on 18th of February 2015 in Belgrade, Serbia.
The project will achieve the following results: 1) Consumer organizations will form its position on the challenges related to the protection of users of municipal services, 2) Consumer organizations should strengthen their capacity to raise the level of consciousness and awareness of target groups, 3) It should be identified potential cooperation initiatives between research organizations, but also with the other actors at regional and national level.
The operational plan of the project consists of four work packages, which will be focused on the following activities: development of regional studies and the adoption of action plans to advocate for consumer organizations, organizing a dialogue between all stakeholders and preparing a strategy to raise consumer awareness, and the establishment of regional consumer organizations – CONWeB, with the clear aim of joining BEUC – the European organization for consumer protection.
First workshop to strengthen the capacity of the consumer organizations
Within the network of research centers in South East Europe – Think for Europe Network (TEN), in Belgrade on 30th and 31st of March 2015 was held a two-day regional workshop, at which consumer organizations had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the analytical framework and data collection methods to improve their capacity to advocate for the rights of users of municipal services in Southeastern Europe.
The workshop is therefore provided participants with additional knowledge and skills for a successful preparation of joint studies, and independent research activities for influencing policy-making processes and effective consumer protection. In addition to this, there will be organized several workshops with the common goal of strengthening the capacity of consumer organizations. Additional participants in the project activities will be related to the identification of problems that consumers / users of municipal / utilities face in protecting their rights, formulate recommendations to overcome them, as well as the establishment of regional consumer organizations (ConWeB).
Second workshop held in Budva
Workshop on fundraising and management of projects financed from EU funds, within the framework of the project “Capacity building of consumer organizations for better municipal services in South East Europe”, was organized by the Institute Alternative (IA) and TEN network, whose IA member, held in Budva between 7th and 11th of June 2015.
During the four-day work, participants had the opportunity to gain new knowledge in the field of writing project proposals funded by the EU funds, as well as in the field of project management. Sessions were devoted to familiarizing stages of the project cycle, a working group created concrete proposals.
Knowledge and experience gained at the workshop should strengthen consumer organizations in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, in the future process of raising funds and writing projects in the future work of ConWeb, network of organizations for the protection of consumers, whose establishing is foreseen by this project.
Local events in Montenegro Within the project local events were organised in the municipalities of Berane and Niksic in Montenegro, where the results of the study titled “Challenges of consumer protection in the field of municipal services, the process of European integration” were presented. The aims of the study are to show the current state of consumer protection in the utility sector, as well as advocating for better municipal services in the region. The events were attended by representatives of utilities and local governments.
Local events, for presenting the study “Challenges of consumer protection in the field of municipal services, the process of European integration “
Within the regional project “Capacity building of Organizations for Consumer Protection, for better municipal services in South East Europe”, we have organized local events in the municipalities of Berane and Niksic, where we presented the results of the study, titled “Challenges of consumer protection in the field of municipal services, the process of European integration “. The aims of the study are to show the current state of consumer protection in the utility sector, as well as advocating for better municipal services in the region. The events were attended by representatives of utilities and local governments.