On December 1, 2017, the REC held its General Assembly Meeting at the Gerbeaud Haz in Budapest. Notable highlights of the event were: the handing out of GA mandates to several new members, the election of a new GA president, a summary of recent REC activities from the REC Executive Director, summaries of results of cooperation efforts from delegates from Ukraine and Moldova, and the presentation of the first ‘Outstanding Service Award’.
Peter Kiss-Parciu, Deputy State Secretary for Cross-Border Economic Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary, contributed opening remarks and a keynote speech to the approximately 70 invited guests. Kiss-Parciu noted that progress has been made in the REC project portfolio, and mentioned that the Government of Hungary supports strengthening its cooperation with the organisation.
The next order of business was to present mandates to new GA members. Those receiving mandates at this year’s final meeting were: Milan Chrenko (Slovakia), Ornela Cuci (Albania), Ivan Karic (Serbia), Kerli Kiili (Estonia), Detelina Peicheva (Bulgaria), Sasa Radulovic (Montenegro), Georg Rebernig (Austria), Ljubica Teofilovs (FYR Macedonia), Szymon Tumielewicz (Poland) and Takehiko Wajima (Japan).
Among the new GA members, Montenegro’s Sasa Radulovic was put forward as candidate for GA president, pending the approval of voting members. With all candidates voting in favour of the motion, Mr Radulovic accepted and addressed the meeting participants, while continuing to chair the meeting as the new GA president.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to preside over this meeting of the General Assembly,” said Radulovic. “By coming together in this forum, we all recognise our common mission to achieve greater transparency, sustainability and European integration in Central, South Eastern and Eastern Europe."
REC Executive Director Mihail Dimovski followed with a presentation titled “REC in the New Era” to explain his vision for taking the organisation into the future, while highlighting the importance of its managing body.
“The role of the GA is extremely important—and, also, hard work,” Dimovski explained. “The GA serves as a platform for regional programming, and assists in meeting the programme needs of beneficiary countries. The GA also can be used for donor coordination, facilitating dialogue between beneficiaries, and as a support mechanism in the context of EU enlargement.”
As many REC ‘member states’ have moved from being beneficiaries to being donors, the REC has focused much of its recent attention on countries further east—Ukraine and Moldova in particular. Mykola Kuzio, Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Ukraine; and H.E. Oleg Tulea, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to Hungary, both commented on recent developments that will bring closer cooperation between the REC and these two countries in the future.
Mr Kuzio announced to the GA that the Council of Ministers of Ukraine has approved the text of a bilateral agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the REC to establish an office in Kyiv. The signing will take place in Kyiv in January 2018.
The final item on the agenda was the first ever presentation of the REC’s ‘Outstanding Service Award’, to be given each year to a personality who has made an enormous contribution to the work and mission of the REC. This year’s recipient was Anna Phillips, who has been passionately involved in the REC—primarily through the General Assembly—for more than 20 years. Ms Phillips announced this year, the REC was sad to learn, that she will be stepping down from the GA after long and distinguished service.
Mr Radulovic then concluded the meeting with a remark that future communication within the General Assembly is essential, and that cooperation between the REC Board of Directors and the General Assembly will be strengthened in moving forward.