The Agency history

The European Agency for Reconstruction came into being in February 2000.  It was born of a previous commitment - made towards the end of the crisis in Kosovo in June 1999 - when the European Council took a decision to take an active role in assisting reconstruction and recovery efforts in that province. A temporary body, the European Commission Task force for the reconstruction of Kosovo* (EC TAFKO), had already been set up before the end of the summer of 1999 to implement emergency programmes. 

During 1999 the European Union provided €127 million for reconstruction programmes in Kosovo, to restore adequate living conditions before the winter, to make urgent repairs to essential infrastructure, to restart public administration, and to clear mines. Assistance was implemented through the EC (TAFKO).

During the five-month period after the end of the conflict in July 1999, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and other specialised UN agencies, the KFOR military presence and the consulting firm International Management Group, assessed the extent of the human and infrastructural damage done in Kosovo. It also took into account the need to undo a decade of neglect of human rights and public institutions.

Based on this, the European Commission and the World Bank prepared a Report EC/WB, 3 November 1999, ‘Towards stability and prosperity: a programme for reconstruction and recovery in Kosovo’) which was considered at the 2nd Donors Conference in November 1999. This Report outlined a recovery strategy, set overall goals and priorities, and provided an estimate of external funding requirements needed for each sector.

During the conference the EU confirmed its intention to continue to take a prominent role in Kosovo, and established the principle of close cooperation and collaboration with UNMIK and other bilateral donors in the key areas of reconstruction and development. 

The European Agency for Reconstruction was subsequently established in February 2000 as a new implementing agency. The Agency built on the experience of the EC TAFKO, and took over the completion of the latter’s programmes as part of its 2000 programme. It operates in a province for which the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1244 of June 1999, has given the interim administration UNMIK a clear political and administrative mandate.

Closely following the sector work programmes developed with UNMIK, the Agency prepared its own work programme for Kosovo for 2000. This plan concentrated on the most immediate needs for physical and economic reconstruction, but also took a longer term perspective on the need to develop a market-oriented economy and to foster private enterprise. At the outset, the Agency decided to focus its assistance on the rehabilitation and repair of the key infrastructure and public utilities required to bring life back to normal in Kosovo. The main sectors in which it chose to operate included energy, housing, transport and water supplies.  It also launched activities in enterprise development, agriculture and health.

Following changes in the political establishment in Serbia during October/November 2000, in December the activities of the Agency were extended to cover the whole state of Serbia & Montenegro. In the last month of the year, the Agency helped to implement an Emergency Assistance Programme in Serbia worth €180 million, covering the most pressing areas of social need. It then assumed responsibility for the main EU assistance activities in Serbia - and in Montenegro - on 8 January 2001.

In December 2001 the Agency was formally asked to assume management responsibility for the main EU assistance programmes in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Since September 2001, it had in fact assisted the European Commission in the preparation and management of an Emergency Assistance Programme, which was launched in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the wake of the signature of the Ohrid Framework Agreement of August 2001. The programme had two main aims: first, the reconstruction of areas which had been affected by the conflict in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the first half of the year; second, support to confidence-building measures to bolster the implementation of the Framework Agreement. As of January 2002, the Agency then took over full responsibility for the management of this Programme, and established an operational centre in Skopje. 

Initially tasked to meet emergency needs and rebuild physical infrastructure in the early post-conflict years, the Agency’s work has evolved, as the region progressed, into institution building: strengthening central and local government, helping to enforce the rule of law, developing the economy and building communities.

A significant political turning point came in 2003 at the Thessaloniki Summit, where the European Union clearly stated that the future of the Balkan countries lay in the EU. This pledge was a watershed for the region’s relations with the EU, and had a tremendous impact on the Agency’s work. After that summit, there was a marked quickening in the Agency’s shift from emergency reconstruction to supporting reforms that would help the countries modernise, and prepare them to eventually meet the criteria for possible EU membership. One example of this is the increased use of ‘twinning’, through which government officials from EU countries are seconded to a similar post in an aspiring EU country. The Agency has already implemented some 40 twinning projects across the region, providing a transfer of knowledge and know-how in areas as diverse as fighting organised crime and corruption, drafting employment policy, improving air quality and raising food safety standards.

The region is now moving closer to the EU. Political, economic and social reforms have been initiated throughout the region. Serbia is negotiating the terms of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, and Montenegro is on its way to signing one. In Kosovo, the EU is preparing for a larger role. And the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has gone from the brink of civil war in 2001 to becoming an EU candidate country in 2005. EU assistance, managed by the Agency, has been an important factor in helping the region to move forward in such a positive way.

Since 2000, the Agency has managed a portfolio of more than €2.8 billion of EU funds, the largest budget of any EU agency. By autumn 2007, €2.6 billion of this had been contracted, and €2.3 billion paid out. And this has been achieved with very low administrative overhead costs – just 5% of the overall budget.

In September 2007, Mr Adriano Martins assumed the function of Director of the European Agency for Reconstruction following the departure of Mr Richard Zink, who was Director since September 2002. Mr Zink had succeeded Mr Hugues Mingarelli, who held the position from February 2000 to June 2002.

Please note: In February 2003 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia became the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. All EU strategy documents for the country, which were originally conceived for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, were immediately transferred to Serbia & Montenegro. Montenegro declared independence from Serbia following a referendum in May 2006.

Milestones

07/1999

 European Commission Task Force for the reconstruction of Kosovo begins operations

02/2000

 Establishment of the Agency at its operational centre in Pristina, Kosovo

05/2000

 Establishment of Agency seat in Thessaloniki, Greece  

12/2000

 EC ‘CARDS’ and Agency Regulations replace Obnova Regulation  

12/2000

 Establishment of Agency operational centre in Belgrade, Serbia 

01/2001

 Agency’s mandate widened to include Serbia and Montenegro

02/2001 

 Establishment of Agency operational centre in Podgorica, Montenegro

12/2001

 Agency’s mandate widened to include the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

01/2002  

 Establishment of Agency operational centre in Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of

 Macedonia

06/2003

 Thessaloniki Summit where EU reiterates that the future of the Western Balkan countries

 is in the European Union

11/2004

 Agency’s mandate extended until the end of 2006

06/2006

 EU assistance to Kosovo through the Agency (amount contracted) passes €1 billion mark

11/2006

 Agency’s mandate extended until the end of 2008

01/2007

 EU assistance to Serbia through the Agency (amount contracted) passes €1 billion mark

 

* Under UNSCR 1244/99