Experience in Twinning










12 years of institution building in practice










Dr Frits van Vugt
















This document is based on my personal experience in many EU Twinning projects, implemented in a number of countries and over a period of 12 years. The text reflects my personal views. It is in no way a reflection from the official views of the Netherlands’ or EU authorities and bodies. It is exactly my intention not to let my writing be influenced by the limitations of what is “politically correct”. 



Den Haag, April 2013



The document is divided in three parts: part one, General considerations, reflects on Twinning operations at a higher level of abstraction. Part two, Management & Planning, contains specific observations, summarises experiences and recommendations on an operational level. Part three focuses on some very specific aspects of logistical nature. To allow for an easy access to the information the text of part one is accompanied by short  remarks and conclusions on the right hand of the page. The right hand column in this way represents the executive summary. A short introduction (page 3) describes my personal motivation and inspiration for the work as project leader of Twinning projects. Part four is a compilation of personal anecdotic observations: it is to serve as an illustration of what this work is about, how theory relates to practice of daily life. 




General considerations                


Management & Planning               


Logistical issues                         


Anecdotic observations               





Guidance to readers:


-      “Twinning” and “Twinning projects” points exclusively to those projects that take place under the EU Twinning program: the projects are carried out as government-to-government projects, have to comply strictly with the Twinning Manual[1] and receive subsidy from the EU Commission.

-      Beneficiary country points at the target country of the project: candidate country or future associate country (European Neighbourhood Policy, ENP)

-      Member State (or Member States) points at the EU Member States that are supporting the Beneficiary country through the Twinning project

-      When I refer to “he” in the text this should be read “he or she”. In the same way “his” should imply “her” as well.








Beneficiary Country: the country which is expected to be upgraded and supported by the twinning cooperation


European Union


Food and Veterinary Office of the EU


Member State of the EU


Project leader


Resident Twinning Advisor


EU Commission DG Health and Consumers


Short Term Expert



Participation in EU Twinning projects is to be considered as a regular task of government institutions. Twinning projects offer a framework to the national governments to share their experiences with governments of other countries, strengthen the international networks and contribute to the development of civil service.

On a personal level I have found great satisfaction in performing the task of leading Twinning projects. I have found strong personal motivation in this work because it offered me  possibilities to contribute to the development of accountable civil service.

Twinning cooperation between countries is about institution building, is to assist the creation of governing structures that contribute to a transparent, democratic society. It builds infrastructure and transfers knowledge and ideas that will improve honesty in trade, a predictable environment for the public and the producer, create mechanisms of control and countervailing power. For a society to be mature it needs a civil service that is responsible, just, accountable and honest. Only in this way the people will be able to shape their personal future and create better chances for themselves and their children. In a nation’s perspective improvement of civil service capabilities are to enable participation in the world community of nations, the international “order” and interrelations. A sound and healthy civil service is a prerequisite for any nation in the world to participate in the shaping of the future, to be part of and contribute to the future of mankind.

The job of project leader in international cooperation aimed at institution building gave me the impression that I could directly and rather concretely contribute to these objectives. It has always been clear for me that the goals can reach reality only on the longer term. For practical reasons the choice is made for working in projects, with a tangible results, defined and measurable goals to be reached. This offers the framework for the more abstract objectives, that are much more difficult to define, that are more difficult to measure. Those abstract objectives are about increasing accountability, responsible behaviour, awareness of being part of a system of civil service and the need to adhere to higher values then personal short term interests. It also refers to awareness of the importance of communicative skills: how to be open and to listen to the other. Competences that badly need development and support are system awareness and strategic thinking. Notwithstanding practical and even political realities a sound civil service needs awareness of continuity and the necessity to serve long term interests of society.


The paragraphs that follow are based on my personal experience as project leader of 12 large EU Twinning projects in a number of countries: my views and the way I have implemented the task as project leader cannot be separated from my personal career. A track record on the Twinning projects completed and on my professional background is available on my website: www.fritsvanvugt.nl








Part 1

General considerations:

1.1  The nature of Twinning projects


According to Wikipedia Twinning is an institution building tool[2]. "Twinning is one of the principal tools of Institution Building accession assistance. Twinning aims to help beneficiary countries in the development of modern and efficient administrations, with structures, human resources and management skills needed to implement the acquis communautaire to the same standards as Member States. Twinning provides the framework for administrations and semi-public organisations in the beneficiary countries to work with their counterparts in Member States. Together they develop and implement a project that targets the transposition, enforcement and implementation of a specific part of the acquis communautaire." Twinning was first launched in May 1998 and the European Commission has concluded that the Twinning instrument is very successful in reaching its objectives.[3]     


Twinning projects are structured on the basis of the principle of cooperation between peers. In this aspect Twinning cooperation is fundamentally different from a consultancy operation.

Twinning brings together colleagues from inside governments. This means that they can share experiences from inside and being colleagues from the same background creates a basis of trust between the partners. At both sides there is the notion of how realities are in a governmental structure: the orientation on politicians, operation within the tasks, responsibilities and particular risks connected to the role of government and public services, the vulnerability towards Press, the relation to international bodies and the international codes and practices.


The consequence of this is that a Twinning partner, and this is especially true for the Project Leader (PL), and somewhat less so for the Resident Twinning Advisor (RTA), need to be ready to share experiences in the policy game, in crisis operations, in the attitude how to relate to “Brussels”, in a broader context than strictly covered by the Twinning contract (the Work Plan). For a Project Leader it is necessary that he is able to communicate with his partners at the levels close to the Minister, that he has experience to be able to communicate effectively at high policy levels.


Twinning projects aim at supporting Beneficiary country administrations to harmonise with EU codes and practices. The basis of a Twinning project is an area of deficiency, where the Beneficiary country is not complying with EU codes and practices and therefore it needs support to correct this. Often there have been assessment missions by DG SANCO or FVO in which the gaps have been identified. This means that after the completion of a Twinning (or a series of Twinning projects) there will be again an assessment if the gaps have been filled and the deficiencies corrected.


The Twinning partner, Member State(s), therefore acts as a partner from within the EU to support the Beneficiary country in explaining how to deal with EU requirements and reach the state of conformity in such a way that EU (officials) will be satisfied. The Member State partner should not operate as a critical evaluator of the Beneficiary country, should not take the role of an Inspector. Most of all it is to be realised that the attitude should be avoided which is seen often in EU Commission officers: they often implicitly seem to say: “we know what is good for you and you have to obey our rules”.  The Member State partners should act as “trusted counsellors”, working in a confidential atmosphere in which open discussions can take place. In case the Beneficiary country partners get the impression that the Member State partners act as secret eyes and ears of the EU the basis of trust and confidentiality is lost. The primary loyalty of the Member State partners in Twinning needs to be with the Beneficiary partners.

The Work Plan and Contract of a Twinning also reflects this atmosphere: when the Beneficiary and the Member State(s) have reached agreement, the EU will often step back and approve without too much interference. For anything formal in the relationship between the three parties, Beneficiary country, Member State(s) and EU, the first step is always that the Beneficiary and the Member State(s) reach agreement. The next step is that they, together, address to the EU.


The consequence of this arrangement is also that the team of Beneficiary and Member State(s) together are responsible towards the EU for the project results and achievements. In a consultancy agreement the consultant is responsible for delivering: services or materials. In Twinning both partners together are responsible for all results to be achieved. If there is a result specified in the Work Plan to be achieved by the Beneficiary Country, the Member State will not be able to hide away for not achieving this result. Upon evaluation of the project achievements, the Member State(s) will be held accountable for not reaching this objective as well. The spirit of a Twinning operation is one of joint responsibility in which partnership the Member State(s) is considered the “elder brother”, who is also held accountable for what the younger brother needs to do. This aspect is of course not made explicit in the contractual agreement, however we need to be aware of this reality: if something goes wrong in a Twinning project it is the Member State side that gets the blame. (as an experienced EU Member it should know the way and the pitfalls, “Noblesse oblige”). This aspect will be underestimated when a Twinning operation is considered in the same spirit as a consultancy.



Definition of Twinning














Twinning is nót consultancy.












PL and RTA need to be able to communicate effectively at Minister’s level.






The basis of a Twinning is an area of non-compliance with EU law & practice, a gap in the implementation of regulation and control in comparison with EU practice.





The Twinning partner is nót an EU inspector but a peer expert and trusted “colleague”.


















Beneficiary country and Member State are jointly responsible for the project results. The MS partner is considered by the EU bureaucracy as “more responsible” since the MS partner is the more experienced.



By nature working in a governmental area, especially one which is prone to crises, like the food safety and the veterinary field, means that a carefully planned working schedule may be interfered by unexpected events. Political developments, like unforeseen elections, will also seriously disrupt the implementation of the project planning. More than in the Western European administrations a political change in Eastern countries or in Northern Africa and the Middle East will affect a considerable number of officers in the higher levels. In fact a large number of people in the Beneficiary organisation will be preoccupied about their position. This will lead to disinterest in the original activities as identified in the Work Plan.

In such situations the options for the project management are:

- shifting activities to another time, postponing some and reschedule others

- adapt the subject: for instance if in the project it was foreseen to work on Foot and Mouth disease, but the Beneficiary country is confronted with Classical Swine Fever, then work on that disease. Flexibility and addressing the needs of the Beneficiary is paramount.

It is wise to keep in mind that at the side of EU bureaucracy the possibilities for “flexibility” may be limited: for instance regarding extension of the project implementation. When the project cannot be finished within the time frame foreseen, this is considered the consequence of bad planning and bad management on the Member State’s part.

Planning of the project is detailed in the Work Plan, however always be ready to adapt the activities to meet with urgent and direct needs at the Beneficiary side (crisis or political developments)


Crisis, unforeseen political events require flexibility[4]. However if the project is not finished according to the planning and time schedule of the Work Plan, this will be blamed on the MS side as bad planning and bad management.




1.2 Conceptualisation of the Twinning project



A key issue in the process of realisation of a Twinning project is the phase of negotiation of the Work Plan. Although often in the Twinning fiche a rather detailed account of activities is given, it is worthwhile to review this together with the Beneficiary and the EU Delegation. Considerable time may have elapsed since the writing of the fiche, so the priorities may have changed. Some objectives may have been realised already and changes in key staff at the Beneficiary side may have shifted their interest. Furthermore, it is to be noted that also at the side of the Member State(s) valuable input can lead to new ideas for the project at the side of the Beneficiary. Not always the fiche is well structured nor is it always well-conceived. The negotiation of the Work Plan is the ultimate chance to realise a shared vision on the Twinning project results to be reached, to let the Beneficiary country optimally benefit from the experience the Member States have to offer. When the negotiation is merely an administrative exercise in which the fiche is followed in detail, there is a missed chance. In the negotiation the partners meet, exchange views and ideas, identify common goals and become inspired for the project. The negotiation should yield consensus between the partners and build commitment and confidence at both sides.


The negotiation of the Work Plan is a chance to review the issues mentioned in the project fiche and to develop a shared vision on the key issues for the implementation of the Twinning.


Often the key persons in the administration of the Beneficiary country have high ambitions: they dream of reaching the level of the “old” Member States within the time span of one Twinning project. They are attracted by the level of sophistication existing in the Member States and often they are also attracted by the efficiency and cost effectiveness. An idea of transferring responsibility to producers to alleviate the pressure on the governmental services is attractive for them in times of budgetary restrictions. In reality the situation in the Beneficiary country often reflects the situation that existed in the “old” Member States half a century ago. This gap cannot be bridged in a few years. The level of knowledge and motivation, let alone the cultural preconditions, in the Beneficiary country, both at the inspectors’ level as well as with the producers does not allow the sophisticated approach as it is practicable in the advanced Member States. It is wise to keep in mind during the negotiation of the Work Plan that ambitions of the project need to be realistic in terms of the context of the Beneficiary country. In setting the goals of a Twinning project it is important to keep in mind how the situation in the Member States developed over time.

The negotiation of the Work Plan should maintain realistic objectives: it is management of expectations.

It is unrealistic to expect that a given Beneficiary country can reach in a one and a half year project what an “old” Member State took 50 years to realise.



For this negotiation to be effective and to build a firm basis for the project the Project Leader at Member State(s) side needs to play a key role. This is the forum where he establishes his authority over the project, where he shows he is on the steering wheel. His authority will depend greatly on his skills as a communicator, a visionary and charismatic leader and an inspiring project director. It is important to keep a close contact with the beneficiary country project leader during the negotiations.  



The position of the Member State project leader is not an administrative job: the Member State project leader is the person in charge, the decision maker. He needs to be well qualified for and proficient in all the key functions in project management: represent the project, have a vision on how the overall goals are to be reached, perform management of expectations. He needs to know what it is all about, although of course a lot of specialists as Short Term Experts (STE) will participate in the project. The Member State project leader needs to know the context, needs to have a clear view of what is expected from the STE’s, needs to have a view if the project activities have effectively contributed to the project goals as planned. It is vital that he has excellent communication skills, has the capacity to effectively reach different audiences and is able to have an effective discussion up to the highest political levels.  


In my personal view the Member State project leader should in fact perform a number of expert missions in the project as well. When the Member State project leader visits the Beneficiary country only on a quarterly basis, to participate in Steering Committee meetings, he is not doing a right job. The Member State project leader needs to be fully involved in the substance of the project.


It should be noted that the Member State project leader represents not only his institution but also and in the first place and foremost he is representing the Member State. In case there is a Consortium (see also 1.3.3) he represents also the junior Member State. This applies to both the qualitative and quantitative aspects. In Western European countries we accept that a project leader can be a management professional: in the East and the South we have to realise that a project leader should have authority on the “subject” of the project: for a project in the animal health area only a veterinarian as PL is likely to be accepted. (see also paragraph 4.7.)


In the formulation of the Work Plan the PL of the Member State establishes his position as the leader and inspirator of the project.


The success of the PL depends on his abilities as

- team leader

- partner who is able to oversee the broader context of the project and who has the ability to be a partner in discussions at high political level 

- diplomat

- communication skills.


The PL at Member State side should show a high level of involvement with the project.



The Member State PL represents the Member State and carries the full responsibility for all the input and contributions in the project.

At the MS side the team of PL plus RTA constitute the backbone of the project. They need to have an intensive (almost daily) communication and they need to share view and opinion on the project issues. Both PL and RTA should invest heavily in their contact. The team will only be effective when there is mutual trust and “chemistry”.


The professional profile required for the RTA is roughly dependent on the nature of the Twinning project: a project with a large (> 1 M €) budget will imply that there will be large numbers of STE. The RTA by consequence will have very much a managerial role. He will need to make a lot of connections inside the BC administration, arrange meetings, identify relevant BC counterparts. His input into the project will not be much of technical nature. In a Twinning project with a rather limited budget (< 0.5 M €) it is likely that not many STE missions will be foreseen: so the RTA will be expected to deliver a considerable part of the specialist technical input.

In general, in addition to the professional aspect, the competences of the successful RTA are:

-      authority from the professional angle regarding the subject of the project

-      diplomatic attitude

-      ability to work in isolation, far away from home (in many respects), emotional stability

-      ability to work in a cultural environment highly different from that in the home country, ready to adapt

-      flexible attitude and ready to improvise.     


The PL and RTA at MS side must be a good team.  





The profile of the RTA is highly dependent on the characteristics of the Twinning project. Selection of the right candidate for the position of RTA deserves careful attention.





1.3.  The steps in establishing a Twinning project


The process from the decision to apply[5] for a given Twinning project to the actual start of the project takes considerable time: often more than a year. In this process several steps are critical.



1.3.1. - the dossier that is to be submitted as proposal. The dossier has to be structured in accordance with the guidelines (Twinning Manual, endnote 1). It is important that the dossier is concise and clearly indicates the objectives of the project and the results that will be obtained; the wording should nót be copied from the project fiche, but it should be formulated in such a way that it shows that the applicants clearly understand what it is all about. In the same line it can be important to add issues, views, comments from the part of the applicants. An attempt should be made to make an analysis of the project issues that can be read “between the lines”: what is the political context of the Twinning project? What are the potential tensions in the system in the Beneficiary country? It would be useful to read (recent) FVO reports (both country reports as well as reports from inspection visits are useful sources and are available at the site of FVO [6]) on the Beneficiary country and the institutions involved. It can also be useful to ask The Netherlands’ Embassy for inside information. Meticulous preparation in this way shows that the applicants are familiar with the issues of the project, are offering added value and do not just follow the fiche. The MS PL should have developed his own vision on what is really needed in the Beneficiary country; he should have in the back of his mind the critical success factors he has identified for the project.  In the formation of a consortium (see also 1.3.3.) take note of the political and diplomatic issues that may be relevant[7]: the decision at the Beneficiary side could very well be influenced by non-technical arguments.



The dossier (proposal) to be submitted must follow the prescribed format and it should be clear, concise and attractive to the reader. It should have added value, points of interest for the BC counterparts.


1.3.2. - the presentation of the Member State part.

In Western Europe it is perceived as normal that a proposal is brought forward by institutions and organisations. The people involved are seen as representatives of their organisation. In the countries that are potential Beneficiaries of Twinning the situation is often somewhat different: the Twinning partners are taken much more as individual persons. Acquisition of Twinning projects depends much more on the positive “chemistry” between the Beneficiary officers and the Member State counterparts. The presentation session should therefore allow for the personal touch. The Project Leader and the RTA should show their personal interest in the cooperation proposed. The Project Leader should show his abilities in communication and management.

Although there may be a tendency to have a large delegation on the part of Member States, my preference is to keep the delegation limited to those that really matter: the Project Leader and the RTA, when applicable the junior project leader and in addition one diplomat. The diplomat could open the input of the Member States’ consortium by introduction of the delegation and underlining the importance that the Authorities connect to this Twinning cooperation. After that he hands over the leadership of the presentation to the Project Leader. The Project Leader should clearly show that he is the master on the ship. This also means that the time schedule is followed precisely: if the presentations take too much time, too much overlap, too much uninteresting detail, this is a sign of bad management on the part of the Member State project leader. Here the principle is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). The presentation should leave adequate room for discussion. It could be very beneficial if the discussion again adds to the views laid down in the fiche.          

The presentation ideally should convince the Beneficiary delegation that this offer is special, that the project leadership at Member State side has personal commitment to the project and that they are ready for an open and flexible cooperation. The Beneficiary side should have the feeling that they have met people they can trust.


For the presentation to impress the audience with a focussed and professional approach:

-      to be well prepared it is advisable to meet well in advance of the presentation, preferably the day before, to get through the procedure, discuss all issues, have a rehearsal of the presentation and prepare for the questions that can be expected      

-      make sure the Powerpoint-presentation is swift and in good order: make sure to have only one file with all the slides to be used in the presentation

-      take care to have all the documentation from the slides also as hard copies

-      before entering the room make a clear order of battle: who is doing what (distributing papers, business cards, installation of the USB in the laptop etc), seating arrangement

-      at the end stress that additional questions that may come up after the session will gladly be answered by phone or e-mail

-      for the RTA it is especially important to say some words about his motivation to work in this project in this particular beneficiary country. Also he should already indicate if he is planning to move with his family to the Beneficiary country

-      avoid any duplications and unnecessary diversions. Avoid that people in the delegation speak for just being heard

-      take into account that the time schedule for the presentations is often not followed precisely: delays often occur and therefore keep time in reserve between the scheduled presentation and your return flight. This also allows for the presenting team to sit and reflect on the meeting: what went good and what went wrong, what are the lessons to be drawn?


The success of the presentation of the Twinning proposal depends on the professional performance and is also very much influenced by the personal aspects (charisma, personal “chemistry”).



The MS Project Leader must be able to explain (in broad lines) how the issues of the project have been solved in his own country and which major obstacles had to be solved. He also should have a vision how the issues are to be solved in the Beneficiary country.










Recommendations for a professional performance.

1.3.3.  - The Member State part may involve only one Member State.

However there are compelling arguments to form a consortium of two Member States.


Reasons are:

-      for the Beneficiary country it is important to get acquainted with the situation in more than one Member State in the area of the particular project. In the EU often more possible solutions are acceptable regarding the implementation of EU acquis. Also at the Beneficiary side it may be important to avoid the impression that they are forced to copy the situation in one particular Member State. The EU is a Community of quite diverse Member States and a consortium better reflects and illustrates this diversity. In accordance with this philosophy I prefer not to “subcontract’ a specific part or component of the project to one of the Consortium partners. In my opinion the best way is to build mixed teams of experts from the Consortium to implement project activities. This will promote an integrated approach in the picture presented to the Beneficiary counterparts.  

-      there may be specific reasons of expertise for joining with another MS: a consortium partner having a land border at the outside of EU (like Poland or the Baltic States) may complement The Netherlands that has only air- and sea- borders. Inclusion into the Consortium of “new” MS maybe an asset because they have recent experience in adopting the EU acquis and with the processes involved in the transition to a market economy. Additionally it may be important that specific MS’s are familiar with the old USSR practices of inspection & control and with the Russian language.

-      the formation of a Consortium is as well important for the Member States: it will allow the Project Leader to tap from a larger pool of experts. Often the number of experts available in one Member State on a given subject is (very) limited. On top of that the need for a given expert in the Twinning project may coincide with an unforeseen event (like an incident or even a crisis) in the Member State. In such situation the management of the Member State institution will understandably give priority to the national interests and leave the Project Leader of the Twinning without expert. In an international  Consortium involving sister institutions the Project Leader will be much less vulnerable for such events.

-      when a Consortium is formed one Member State has the lead as senior partner. The other Member State has the position of junior partner. In principle the Member State providing the Project Leader is the senior partner. There is no compelling reason that the RTA is provided by the senior partner: I have often worked with an RTA provided by the junior partner.  

-      in general a Consortium of two Member States is favourable: a Consortium of three may be considered, but it is perceived as more difficult from management point of view: that is why this situation should be avoided. If need may be to have experts from more than two Member States in a project it may be considered to form a Consortium of two and take on board some specific experts from a third Member State under the contribution of either the senior or junior partner.

-      it is important to note (again, see also above) that a Twinning is established between Governments. A Government institution or body will be the implementer, leading the operation from the Member State part, but this institution is not itself the Twinning partner. Institutional setup and organisation may differ from one country to another. Therefore it is not uncommon that Twinning institutions do not have identical tasks and responsibilities. In the Western European countries the organisational principle in government is separation of policy and executive tasks. This does not apply, maybe even very remote, to countries in the Eastern or Southern regions. For this reason the Member State project leader needs to represent the governing system in his country more than his institution of origin (his employer in strict sense). To meet the needs of the Beneficiary country the Twinning Member State part should involve often (if not always) more than one institution or government body.         

For a number of reasons it is wise to offer the BC a Consortium with another MS:


a broader perspective on the implementation of EU requirements









inclusion of a specific partner because of advantages like: recent experience with joining EU and transition from “old” Sovjet style governing systems as well as familiarity with specific language (Russian).


flexibility for the PL to select STE from a larger pool









One MS has the lead and therefore the final responsibility in the Consortium.



The management structure in the Consortium is important and should be well thought of in advance.



Arrangement of responsibilities of institutions is likely to be very different from one country to another. Therefore Twinning should not be considered from the perspective of one institution to another: twinning is between national authorities.



1.3.4. -  Negotiation of the Work Plan.


After the decision by the Beneficiary country (together with the EU delegation) the Member State consortium enters the negotiation of the Work Plan.



The basis of this negotiation lies in the fiche for the project and the dossier submitted by the Member State(s). The Work Plan is the formal contract on what will be realised in the project and what are the duties and responsibilities of the partners. Several remarks are to be made:

-      The negotiation phase is implicitly the opportunity to review the project’s objectives and results to be obtained. Although the fiche is the basis, it is not to be considered as cast in concrete. I have often found room for flexibility, when based on good argumentation. Also the set-up of the project can be amended: basically this phase allows for a meticulous analysis and update of what is the need of the beneficiary country and how can the needs be addressed in the most effective way by the Member State partners. The role of the Project Leader is not only to oversee the process, represent the Member State(s) and assist the Beneficiary in clarifying its needs, but it is also his prime responsibility to manage the expectations at all sides of the table. Negotiation implies matching the needs with the possibilities, keeping expectations, planning and necessary inputs within reasonable limits. Care must be taken by the Project Leader not to go along with the euphoria that may be around the table in which unjustified and unrealistic objectives are uttered. (see also 1.5) Limiting factors at the Beneficiary side are very often the limitations set by their manpower and management system: it is very often relatively easy for the Member State(s) to infuse a lot of knowledge into the project counterparts, but the problem arises for the beneficiary to absorb the knowledge in an effective way: the absorption capacity is the limiting factor.

-      The Work Plan is structured as a translation of the objectives, into Mandatory Results, which are to be realised through concrete activities. This process can be schematically represented:


The negotiation of the Work Plan needs a high level of attention:


- it is the best opportunity to build mutual understanding and trust among the twinning partners


- it is the chance to optimise the project approach and project activities to give the best guarantee for a successful and practicable project implementation


- the negotiation is nót about price[8], it is about realising the best possible match between BC needs and expectations on one side and the possibilities the MS has to offer.


In the Work Plan the project content has to be described exactly in terms of a detailed Log frame. For the Mandatory Results care should be taken that they are defined in terms which are manageable for the project leaders from both sides. Results that are dependent on political factors, like approval by the Parliament or even on the decision of the Minister, are to be avoided: politicians have their own agenda and priorities, which are outside the influence of the project management. In this respect it is important to realise that in the Beneficiary country the layer of “politicians” may be much larger then in western EU countries. It is often not only the Minister and his deputy that are politicians, but even down to the level of Directors of Departments and Services the officers are politicised, are heavily dependent on dynamics of political parties and they may have a political agenda.





1.4.  Cultural aspects



The negotiation of the Work Plan will be the first major operation where the Project Leader and his staff will meet the cultural environment in the Beneficiary country. There are a lot of issues pertaining to the (often very) large cultural difference between Western (“old”) EU Member States and the Beneficiary countries. In the Member States the concepts of project management are familiar and widely accepted. Among them: output financing with budget allocations based on cost estimation and project evaluation based on results achieved. In the Beneficiary countries time management is often not an issue. Civil servants are not aware of their responsibilities (or they have none) and they have a low awareness of how their position is related to the functioning of the organisation as a whole. Hierarchy is strong and structures are rigid. As a consequence people tend to evade taking decisions. All decisions are shifted upward: the office of the “boss” is full of papers to be signed and people are running in and out. The result is that the boss is not able to function because he is constantly involved in taking even the smallest decisions in the organisations. We have to be aware that “uneasy” and uncomfortable information will not reach the boss. Only favourable and positive information is likely to be passed on to him. It is tempting to speculate that this is caused by the culture of “blaming”. If something goes wrong, there is somebody who has to be the culprit. In fact this culture is quite counterproductive because it prevents the organisation to be  a “learning organisation”. An open attitude towards evaluation and drawing lessons for the future would be beneficial, but is often lacking. Evaluation of project achievements or policy operations is therefore often impossible.


A second important cultural difference between the Member State partner and the Beneficiary will be the personal motivation: Member State civil servants enjoy a much better position in the framework of job security and salary. At the Beneficiary side salaries are often extremely low and people can be fired from one day to another (or alternatively, they cannot be dismissed, even if they do not show up at all). The low salaries often necessitate civil servants to have parallel jobs after official working hours. Also it should be noted that participation in a study visit abroad will make available to them an amount of money from daily allowance provided by the project budget, that matches for them at least an extra month salary. The obvious consequence of the low salaries, low job security and bad practices in human resource management will be that the civil servants at the Beneficiary country are much more preoccupied with the question how to survive with their family than how they can contribute to public service. The difference in personal motivation between Member State staff and their beneficiary counterparts may create misunderstandings jeopardising successful project implementation.


Twinning is an intensive cooperation to be realised in an environment characterised by sometimes a large difference in culture. This requires flexibility and understanding from both sides. Administrative procedures, working attitude, professional backgrounds between partners may be greatly different. Also communication may follow greatly different rules.[9]







Each person from the MS-administration working in a Twinning has to be prepared how to handle the cultural differences. Training courses and/or adequate briefing could be useful.

One way to look at the Twinning project is as a bureaucratic operation, a project as an element of national policy and an agreement between the Beneficiary country and the EU. However, successful implementation is highly dependent on personal motivation: therefore it is a valuable principle to identify as soon as possible, most likely during the negotiation phase, one person at the side of the Beneficiary country who is ready to be really committed to the project. This person must the one who can see the project as “his baby”. Very often there has been somebody who has invested already a lot in pushing the project idea through the phase of formulating the fiche and the bureaucratic decision processes involved in launching the fiche. Identifying this person and acknowledging his position as “father” of the project, giving him all the credits, allowing him to have a crucial role in the formulation of the Work Plan, will be of great help to make the project a success. Any project may look from the outside as an anonymous operation, but in reality it is a living thing and it needs continuous inspiration and attention. It needs somebody who is ready to act from behind, to smoothen ripples, somebody who is ready to take (some) risks, if necessary, and who is really interested in the project and its results.


The cultural difference also means we have to be aware of the fact that the political atmosphere differs from that what we are familiar with in Western European countries: in Western Europe democracies are functioning in such a way that governmental institutions are perceived as being devoted to serving the (civil) society. The civil servants are working from the perspective of public interest.

In the countries in Southern and Eastern Europe clientelism is a familiar perspective (Fukuyama [10]).

An important thing to be kept in mind in building the project infrastructure is to have (at least) one person at the BC administration who is really personally committed to the project and who is ready to invest all attention needed, even behind the curtains. A project (any project!!) is dependent on what real people do.




The personal networks play a much greater role. Below the surface there is always the “quid pro quo” and the personal interest. By all means we have to stay far away from practices of corruption. Personally I have never ever been confronted with propositions that are to be considered as corruption.

Nevertheless, when working in these countries we have to be aware that personal connections definitely are important in the institutions of our counterparts.

Staying away from corruption does not preclude that it is acceptable to bring a small present (a tin of traditional cookies or sweets) to the counterpart from time to time. This will create a positive atmosphere which is productive for the project work. Take to avoid controversial articles: alcohol may not be welcome and neither are articles that could be subject to import restrictions (cheese, flower bulbs).


Corruption and clientelism is often current and accepted practice in countries in the East and the South. It is absolutely paramount that the MS officers stay away from those practices. 


Cultural issues are also very dominant in the communication. We, as Dutch, have to be continuously aware of the fact that we have a very direct way of communication. In our view being "direct" has a positive connotation: it is considered “open”, honest, authentic. In many countries around the world our "direct" way of communication is perceived as rude. In contacts, be it workshops, negotiations, trainings or site visits, we have to be constantly aware of the risk of being perceived as rude and impolite. The partner may feel irritated and leave the contact in a very subtle way.

In some cultures we may encounter a reluctance to interrupt the (Western European) speaker. At the same time, we, from the West, take for granted that when our partner does not follow us he will say so. This is not always the case: I have found myself in negotiations in which I perceived a misunderstanding at a certain point in time. Then I reconstructed the discussion together with the counterparts and I found out they did not agree already an hour earlier. It meant that I had lost the partner long before I actually noticed. The lesson for me is to proceed cautiously and to make recapitulations very often. This has to be done with much care and caution not to offend the partner.

The art of intercultural communication is connected to an attitude of tolerance and respect, of building a bridge between our partner and ourselves, of genuine human interest in our partner. We should be ready to skip our goal- and result-oriented approach and to communicate on the terms of our partner.

The intricacies of intercultural communication is illustrated for instance by Jitske Kramer[11].


Communication has to receive maximum attention. Rules and mores may be very different from what we are used to in Western European countries. The negotiator in an intercultural environment has to ask himself continuously whether he has established  "rapport" with his partner(s).




1.5. General policy considerations 



Since Twinning is a cooperation between governments, it is in many aspects an instrument of policy implementation both on the part of the Member States involved, the EU and the Beneficiary country at the other part. As a result of the Twinning project there will be changes in the national policy at the beneficiary country, leading to an approximation, harmonisation or even adoption of EU legislative principles. The Twinning Work Plan specifies the concrete mandatory results to be achieved often in terms of adoption of EU rules and regulations. It is important to be aware of the correspondence with the local circumstances in the Beneficiary country. There may be a considerable difference between the Beneficiary country and the EU Member States as regards the infrastructure, organisation, stage of development and cultural practices. EU legislation for instance aims at a high responsibility with the producer: it is the producer that has to ascertain the safety for the consumer in relation to his products and his production system. For this to be realistic the producer needs to have a certain standard of operation and the society in which he operates needs to be responsive, meaning that the consumer preference and the market price the producer can realise justify the expenditures in safety and quality. How can we expect a producer to make considerable investments in quality control in accordance with modern standards of operation when he has to place his products on a market that largely consists of informal small scale transactions. How can we impose the principles of hygiene code and HACCP on the production of cheese by shepherds that traditionally takes place on the pastures in the mountains under primitive circumstances? The sophisticated Western European systems of “own controls” with the producers is highly dependent on the development of societal infrastructure, the cooperation between the producers based on the awareness of their common interests, the expectations of the public as regards product safety, the consumer’s buying power. At the end of the day the consumer has to value the (extra-)guarantees the producer is offering.


The identification of the goals of a twinning should take into account very much also the development of civil society: the results to be achieved have to fit into the “local” environment. Otherwise the project results are not to be considered sustainable. During the negotiation of the Work Plan it is important to keep an eye on the question if the results agreed fit in the local context.  




In this same line is the dilemma that government policy to force producers to comply with (advanced) EU requirements may force producers to leave the formal market and shift activities to the informal circuits of trade. This dilemma is realistic in countries where there is a large segment in market occupied by the “informal” circuits. In food production this may well be in the order of magnitude of two thirds or three quarters of market share. When in such situations the government puts a lot of effort in forcing the producers under official control to make serious investments in upgrading buildings and installations, in adapting production methods, training and quality control, this will lead to significant increase of production costs. However, since these “quality” products have to compete on the market which is dominated by products from informal sources, the investments may not be valorised. This may inspire the producer to retract from operating under official supervision and shift to the illegal, uncontrolled market segment. In a situation where the streams of informally produced are large, this is easy and simple. The net effect on safety of the products on the market in general is negative: the government policy to increase the level safety has the opposite effect. The first step is to realise that this effect may occur and then it is important to draw up a mix of policy instruments that takes into account that the increase in quality and safety of the products needs to lead to a positive gain on the market. Although it may be rather remote under the cultural conditions in the Beneficiary country, it is important in a given Twinning project to place (joint) effort in establishing communication with the producers. The objective of such cooperation with the producers is to involve them in identifying the best way to upgrade product safety and compliance with EU rules. This has to be a step-by-step approach in which attention has to be paid to the interests of the producers to ensure their compliance. 








1.6.  General recommendations on policy issues and sustainability



Twinning cooperation projects tend to focus on the EU acquis and legislation (institution building) as well as on technical capacities (for instance laboratory techniques). For project results to be sustainable I strongly recommend to introduce into the Work Plan explicitly or implicitly activities that address:



- compliance: workshops and discussions in which the producers and other stakeholders are participating to ensure that the new legislation and procedures fit into the local situation and are realistic, given the stage of development in the country.



- evaluation as a tool for improvement and learning. It is important to get away from the reflex to blame the responsible officers and to create an open atmosphere in which lessons can be drawn for the future.



- training in "soft skills" like project management (planning and control), communication, leadership skills. This can very well be done in an integrated way with transferring the technical substance of the project: develop roadmaps and implementation plans in interactive sessions with the counterparts.



-  longer term perspective (strategic thinking): the project results can be welded into a broader context document or strategic agenda that shows which are the follow-up steps to be taken to assure consolidation. During the project a strategic road map should be developed and this needs to address also the financial issues (consequences for the government budget) as well as organisational arrangements (shifts in mandates and responsibilities between Ministries and other stakeholder institutions).



   Effective Twinning requires an open cooperation, sharing of experiences between colleagues from    both sides.



Part 2


Management & Planning:




Administrative procedures associated with the management of a Twinning project may be complicated. The EU Twinning Manual (note 1) has to be followed in detail and without compromise. Failing to do so will lead to financial damage: if rules of the Manual are not obeyed refund from the EU Twinning budget will turn out to be impossible. I strongly recommend to include in the management team at the MS-side administrative professionals, that are very well aware of what it takes to have an administration in compliance with the Twinning rules, that are completely familiar with these rules and the requirements. The EU bureaucracy allows for no compromise at all as far as compliance with the Twinning rules are concerned. For instance replacement of a Short Term Expert needs an official side letter duly signed by both Project Leaders and processed before the actual mission of the expert. Failure to do so results in no reimbursement of costs of the mission. The administrative complications may be prevented to some extent by indicating a number of STE with each activity in the Work Plan (or to combine activities in such a way that they can be connected to a larger number of experts). In this way a certain degree of flexibility can be created inside the project, to replace experts without the need of formal change in the Work Plan (with concomitant need for Side letters).

Since many documents need to be signed by both the Project Leader at Member State side and his counterpart at Beneficiary side, and this often under pressure of time, it may seem attractive to delegate the power of signature to the RTA, so that documents can be processed to a large extent in the Beneficiary country. My personal view is nót to follow this practice. For the Project Leader at the Member State side it is important to keep track of what is happening inside the project: therefore I recommend that he stays in the loop, notwithstanding the fact that the procedures (sending documents from Beneficiary country to Member State and back) are more time consuming.



The budget of a Twinning project allows that the RTA has an administrative assistant: this person is a national from the BC and functions as an interface between the MS staff and the BC counterparts. In the Twinning project a lot of work has to be done in translations: both translation of documents as well as oral translation in meetings and trainings. The best way to realise this is to have a translator in full service of the project: a translator on permanent basis with the project will become familiar with the often very specific terminology. The best way is to establish a bureau with the RTA in which both the RTA assistant and the translator are housed and where they can work as a team, if need may be to replace each other.



At the Member State side Twinning operations should be budgetary neutral: ideally all the costs should be covered by the project. From the perspective of EU the funds allocated are to be considered a subsidy, which is to cover the “extra” expenses made to implement the project: travel and subsistence as well as a compensation for the cost of the salaries of staff. In principle only those costs can be reimbursed that are directly associated with activities in the other country. For the Member State partner this means that only costs connected to activities in the beneficiary country are eligible for reimbursement: activities like study visits, preparation of missions, administrative costs in the Member State are nót to be covered by the Twinning project budget. For the Beneficiary country the costs of travel and subsistence associated with study visits abroad can be recovered from the project funds. The Twinning Manual from EU describes into detail which costs can be reimbursed. The Work Plan is accompanied by a formal budget section, describing how the budget is used in the project. This budget is to be considered the “external project budget”. [12]For management purposes it is useful also to make an “internal project budget”. In this budget the flow of funds inside the project activities is described including the (re)allocation of money between project partners at Member State side. Ideally the gross total of both budgets should be equal, so that the project is “budget neutral” for the implementing organisation.             



According to the philosophy of the Twinning concept the budget of a project under this program allows for a refund from EU only for those activities that are implemented in “the other country”. So the costs for any activities that take place in the Member State by Member State personnel are not eligible for EU refund from the project budget. This is specifically relevant when it concerns study visits by Beneficiary country staff to the Member State. Costs for the Member State are to be covered by its own budget. For this reason it is important to keep study visits as efficient as possible: do not allow for individual study visits, because they will be very costly from the point of view of time invested. It is better to receive groups of visitors and offer them as much as feasible one uniform program. Under special conditions the Twinning program may cover costs of training in the Member State when it applies to a “standard training course”, in a specialised institution. If arrangements can be made accordingly at least to some extent costs of study visits can be reimbursed to the Member State partner(s).



Each Quarterly report needs the formal approval from the Steering Committee. This also applies to the Final Report. At the same time this creates a logistical complication with the completion of the Final report, urging for a meticulous and deliberate planning in the final phase of the project. It is therefore important that the final draft of the Final report is prepared with appropriate input from as many Steering Committee members as practicable. This will prevent too many (fundamental) changes to be made in the final draft version: after short discussion in the Final Steering Committee it can be agreed which adaptations still to be made for finalisation. It has to be noted that the Final report needs to be ready and submitted within three months after finalisation of the project activities. Failure to comply may severely endanger the smooth financial finalisation.

The process to reach an adequate finalisation of the project should not be underestimated: therefore it is wise to keep the last one month in the project planning without any STE missions, so that this time can be devoted to administrative finalisation. Care must be taken that this one month is still within the so called disbursement period: for each Twinning project the EU bureaucracy has set a date after which no payments are allowed from the project budget. This date is absolute: any payments effected after this date are not eligible for reimbursement from the EU. 



A central role in the project is played by the Steering Committee. In my view it is worthwhile to try to have a high Beneficiary country officer as Chairman: preferably an official at the level of Secretary General or Secretary of State. This will enable the project to be in the attention at high levels and this is favourable for the commitment at the Beneficiary counterparts. By all means the concrete management of the Steering Committee needs to be in the hands of the project team: the RTA plus project leaders. In my personal experience it is effective to have the Steering Committee act in a strict role of decision makers for the project. As much as possible open discussions should be prevented. Only those points are raised that already have been discussed and precooked. Any more wide and open discussions are to take place outside the Steering Committee: it could be useful to install in the project infrastructure a Working Group on Strategic Issues: this working group can be used for more open exchanges of views. From this group also initiatives can be developed for workshops, general communication issues and “think-tank” events. Preferably the Steering Committee meetings are limited to one hour time.

To assure political support for the project it would be advisable to have a meeting with the Minister at regular intervals. Such meetings could take place in connection with the Steering Committee to brief the Minister on progress, politically relevant issues and issues that need resolution at high level. Meetings with the Minister need careful preparation so that only those issues are raised that attract Minister’s attention and not waste his time. Wasting of this “high quality time” with the Minister will be detrimental for the project at longer term.

The Steering Committee meetings are to be held formally at quarterly intervals. Each meeting will oversee the achievements of the preceding period, as described in the Quarterly report. It is current practice that the report is written by the RTA. Since the report is formally submitted by the PL it is important that the PL has carefully read it. The Steering Committee will also be presented with the planned activities for the next period: it is important to give signals of possible problems in project implementation at an early time to give the BC administration or the EU delegation an opportunity to take appropriate measures.



It is obvious that during the course of a Twinning project, often between 18 and 24 months, circumstances change in the project environment. Priorities may shift, people and organisations may change. Therefore it is useful to have a Midterm review session: in this meeting the Twinning team: PL, RTA, counterpart RTA, component leaders,  project administrative manager, assistants sit together and oversee the implementation so far. Questions are addressed like: are we on track, which adjustments are necessary, budget depletion, additional missions to be planned, satisfaction at beneficiary side, how to finalise the project. According to the EU requirements any Twinning project final report should pay attention to sustainability of the project results and recommendations for follow up, if any. In my experience it is very useful to prepare a clear and detailed agenda for follow up actions. Preparations for such agenda, a strategic document have to start well before the closure of the project to ensure ample time for discussions among relevant participants and stakeholders.     



The basis of the project has been agreed in the Work Plan. This Plan is structured according to the principles as laid down in the Twinning Manual. When the project achievements are to be evaluated this will take place starting from the Mandatory results and benchmarks defined in the Work Plan. The significance of the benchmarks as a measure of project management success cannot be underestimated. Therefore I recommend that at the beginning of the project all the Mandatory Results or benchmarks are listed in a schematic representation or a Table. In every Steering Committee meeting this list is presented and progress on the completion of the items is noted: progress can simply be indicated by a percentage of completion (0, 30, 60 and 100%) or even by just ticking as completed. This list will be a useful aid to keep track of project realization. 



At the end of a Twinning project the number of documents produced will be huge. All the documents and reports will be in the running archives at the office of the RTA. However, as soon as the RTA leaves his job and returns to his home country, and also the assistants leave the RTA office infrastructure is lost. The result will be that the archives are disintegrated as well. In my personal experience it is important to consolidate the archives of all the project documents in electronic form and burn them on CD (or DVD). Distribute several copies of the CD to key persons and this will guarantee that documents can be dug up in the future. They are a rich source of information to be used both in the Beneficiary country administration as well as by the Member State partners when they are working in other projects.  





During the course of a Twinning project a lot of activities are carried out and in these activities the number of documents made available to the beneficiary administration is likely to be huge. In fact all these documents, with procedures, manuals, working instructions, policy papers and many others are to be considered as knowledge transferred. So it is worthwhile to list all these documents as project materials as project achievements: they should be included on a list that is annexed to the Final Report. For management purposes it is worthwhile to start with keeping this list already at the very beginning of the project. At the end of the project, at the time of preparation of the Final Report it may turn out to be impossible to recuperate the list completely.



Often at the end of a project the funds allocated have not been used completely. This may lead to the wish to extend the project with some months, performing some more detailed trainings, more elaborated support. This will not be acceptable for the EU: either the project has reached its objectives, and then no extension is required, or it has not reached its objectives and then the project management is to be blamed. So if an extension is to be realised new activities need to be identified; activities that complement the objectives of the project and assure that more is reached than originally foreseen.



Very rightly EU Commission sends out monitoring missions to evaluate Twinning project implementation. To enable EU to act proactively evaluation may take place already during the implementation. The significance of these evaluations, often carried out by private consultants, cannot be underestimated. Therefore I recommend strongly that the Project Leader from Member State side is engaged in the evaluation. This will enable him to comment to the evaluator on the project achievements from the perspective of his views and philosophy on the project content. A crucial aspect in these evaluative discussions is also how the sustainability of the project achievements is assured. The MS PL must have a vision on how he ensures that the work done will not be lost after the project has ended: he should have an “exit strategy”. This point also is of highest priority in the Final report of the Twinning project.            



It is very practical and helpful for the STE visiting the beneficiary country that they are provided with a standard document with travel information. This document could accompany the Terms of Reference for the particular mission. The travel document could provide information on arrival procedures, visa, local currency and how to obtain, travel arrangements from the airport to the hotel, restaurants in the neighbourhood and other particulars. It may be useful that the STE is also provided with a paper with the address of the hotel and the office in local language and scripture (for instance Cyrillic or Arabic): this turns out to be critical because often there is hardly any communication possible with taxi drivers. Especially for the Project Leader and the RTA it will be extremely useful to purchase a copy of Lonely Planet (or the like) for the particular country. This will facilitate greatly to pick up local practicalities. 

Before the STE arrives he will need to have been informed about the working schedules during the mission, the program etc. The first item should always be a briefing meeting at the RTA’s office: in this meeting the RTA can inform the STE (or all project staff present) about recent developments and make arrangements on the program of the STE including a debriefing meeting. Each STE should have a debriefing meeting before leaving the Beneficiary country. In this meeting he will need to present his findings and conclusions and he will be able to hand over his draft mission report.

For the draft mission report a standard format should be made available from the project. The draft mission report will only be converted to final mission report after scrutiny by the RTA and formal approval by the Project Leader. The (draft) mission report should be comprehensive, to-the-point and should have distinct sections on conclusions, recommendations and suggestions for further steps or activities. Make sure the draft mission report is checked by the RTA or the Project Leader before it is presented (widely) to the beneficiary counterparts: it may contain sentences that press on sensitive issues in local perspective. It should be noted that at the end of the day the Member State project leader is responsible for the content and the quality of the STE mission report.

In my opinion it is good practice that the STE does not leave the country (and does not receive his signed mission sheet) without finalising his mission report. Upon return to his home administration the STE is often drowned in regular work again and this may shift the finalisation of the mission report to some lower priority.

Depending on the country it may be useful to pay attention to health issues: sanitary standards may be low and the STE may not want to run the risk of picking up a disease. Several preventive vaccinations can be obtained at travel clinics and public health authorities in The Netherlands.      



According to the Twinning Manual the Beneficiary Country should provide the project with office space, including adequate equipment. This office is to house the RTA, the assistants and the STE for meetings and project work. Often facilities offered were located in a remote area, with the argument that office space was scarce. I have always insisted on an office for the project which is near to the Beneficiary Country Project Leader, near to the official decision makers. It is important to “be in sight”, to be able to have informal contacts close to the real power. In the same way the Twinning Manual specifies that the official language of the project is English (or French). This means that all the formal documents and reports of the project are compiled in English (or French). No funds are allocated from the project to translate the reports in the Beneficiary Country language. I would recommend to be flexible on this point: translation of the project reports will increase the chances that it will be read in the Beneficiary Country.[13]



It is useful to keep an informal but nevertheless strong connection with the MS Embassy in the Beneficiary country. This line of contact however is to be maintained with some diplomatic precaution: the Twinning project functions at the level between the Beneficiary country and the EU Commission. The Twinning project is not an instrument of bilateral relations between the Beneficiary country and the Member State(s) involved. In some cases a representative from the MS Embassy may be participating in the Steering Committee, although his position will be that of observer.



Contacts to the Press are often highly politically sensitive. Therefore this area should be confined to officers at the Beneficiary side. Care should be taken that the Twinning Member State officers are drawn into politically sensitive debates. Press is always looking for any information that attracts attention, often bad attention. Information will be seen as through a magnifying glass and caricatured. Often they will look for statements with which the government administration can be criticised. 




When one has the ambition to become Project Leader in international projects it may be useful to build a profile: an opportunity to do so is to be speaker on international courses and conferences. This helps to extend one’s network and to become “well known” with the relevant target groups. It helps a lot when a member in a twinning selection committee at the beneficiary side have been in the audience during a course or conference and recognise you as a person who had an interesting and inspiring presentation. Opportunities for such conferences are TAIEX events, courses organised by national government in bilateral relations[14], seminars in the framework of Embassy programs and many other. Participation as a speaker in such events may well be a worthwhile investment.    





Part 3


Logistical issues



In most Twinning projects study visits of Beneficiary Country officers to the Member State partner(s) are foreseen. It is important to pay attention to some aspects.


-      assure that there is ample time for preparation: often the visitors need visa, the application of which may need considerable time. Often participants from Beneficiary country side have no experience with international travel: this may lead to unforeseen complications in air travel and immigration.



-      visitors may well need particular attention because of religious obligations: when they come from countries with a predominant Islamic background they should be offered halal food during lunches or dinners. When halal cannot be guaranteed make sure that at least there is no pork on the table and no alcohol. Fish, chicken and cheese in general will not create problems.



-      During the program of the visit time should be allowed for the visitors to pray. In the time schedule flexibility in planning is needed and there should be a quiet corner or separate room available. Praying time will also be needed in a program of an event to be organised in the home country (beneficiary) of the project. For visitors from some countries it may even be difficult to be confronted with female officers from our side: in general no problems will occur, however it is important that the female participants from our side are prepared to avoid hand shaking. In the contacts with Arabic countries it is also important to keep in mind that sitting in such a way that the sole of the shoe is visible to the other person is considered impolite. For all those issues it is advisable for the PL and the RTA, because both are intensively visiting the BC, to buy and read a book on the local habits as well as the BC history (Lonely Planet or the like).



-      when the study visit implies contact with animals, especially in farm visits, care must be taken that these visits are planned late in the program. For instance, when the visitors come from a country in which Foot and Mouth Disease is endemic they may carry the virus and the visitors may constitute a risk for our animal population, which is free of the disease. After a period of three days it can be expected that the virus they may carry (in clothes or on skin and mucosae) will have disappeared.



-      often the participants of a study visit to the Member State are ready to share room in the hotel: this will allow them to keep some money from the daily allowance they get in their own pocket. It is important to note that the normal salary they receive in the BC is so low that the daily allowance in the MS largely exceeds their monthly income. To prevent trouble during the visit it is wise to request (in a diplomatic way) in the phase of making arrangements for the study visit if people wish to share rooms.



-      when visiting establishments (laboratories, production facilities) in the beneficiary country, make sure that you strictly obey the basic principles of hygiene and safety: there may be a tendency that you are considered a special visitor and therefore exempt from the “normal” rules (protective clothing, going through a slaughterhouse without following the principle of from clean to dirty). It is important that we show that we are obeying the rules and take them serious. We need to be aware that we, coming from the EU Member States, are a “role model”.





The office of the RTA is the focal point of project activities in the Beneficiary Country. It needs to be a well-equipped office with adequate facilities for communication and administration. It also serves as the Head Quarters for all STE missions. For adequate functioning it is indispensable that the project office has a bank account in the Beneficiary country for small expenditures. Adequate financial administration for this “petty cash” should be ensured.   







Part 4


Anecdotic observations


The presentation of observations from practice has to be done with caution and hesitation. When names and situations are clearly specified those involved may feel directly criticised and blamed. To minimise these risks the observations have been made anonymous. It also has to be noted they are nothing more than personal anecdotes, that have no claim of general applicability.


4.1. About strategic thinking:

Twinning projects mostly concern the transfer of knowledge about the EU legislation. In simple terms the objective is the adoption of EU rules and practices in the beneficiary country. However, rules are only a tool, they are not a goal in itself.

The example of the regulations regarding the control and eradication of (former list A) animal diseases can show how this works out in practice. The EU rules prescribe (in the non-vaccination policy) that the infected herd needs to be destroyed, the surrounding area of the farm is blocked (standstill in 3 km zone and 10 km zone), so that no animal movements may further spread the disease and all animal contacts with the infected farm are to be identified: tracing upward and downward. The reasoning behind this tracing is to figure out where the disease may have come from and where it could have been brought to before the stand still was effective. This summarises the basic tools to start the control and eradication. Application of these measures alone do not eradicate the disease. On top of these measures a strategy has to be developed with additional measures to create an eradication campaign that is effective in the specific outbreak: this takes into account the local situation, farming practices, the precise cause behind the outbreak (is it from wildlife? Or is it from an accidental disposal of an infective piece of meat? The possibilities are essentially unlimited). The key is that it is of utmost importance to oversee and interpret the findings, analyse and draw conclusions about how to get as soon as possible an effective control over the disease and its risk factors. Personally I have seen that veterinary services obeyed EU ruling to collect information on tracing of contacts of infected farms. It resulted in nice forms with a number of contacts. They however did not collate all the information, they did not take the time to analyse the significance of the findings. So it ended up as a waste of energy: possibilities to get a picture of how the virus travelled through the country were left unused. In fact, when a country is confronted with a number of outbreaks on its territory and it cannot link (most of) the outbreaks with each other, then in fact the epidemiological conclusion is inevitable: the disease is out of control.

In the same way I could observe that a country was nicely collecting information on harmful substances in food: the monitoring program was roughly in accordance with the requirements from EU and lots of data were piled up in tables and reports. These reports were placed on bookshelves and in this way EU requirements were fulfilled. However no attempt was made to analyse the data, to try to draw conclusions on where possible contaminants found their origin and how preventive actions could be taken that the contaminants ended in the food.


4.2. In many countries there are no cold stores at slaughterhouses. The practice in those countries is that the meat and carcasses are transported to the market or to the retail sellers after the slaughter process has been finished. The consequence of this practice is that no quarantine of carcasses is in fact possible: in EU slaughterhouses the meat inspector has the option to retain the carcass until some (additional) tests have been completed and only after this to decide if the meat is fit for consumption. For instance the testing for TSE (including BSE: mad cow disease) of older ruminants requires laboratory investigation, before the carcass can be released. Obviously this requirement cannot be put in practice when no cold storage can be realised at the slaughterhouse. As a consequence in those countries large scale testing for TSE is not practised and the level of safety as realised in the EU cannot be guaranteed.


4.3. A basic principle of food safety guarantee (in the EU) is traceability. It must be possible to trace back in the production chain: where does the product originate? Traceability is also fundamental for guarantees on animal health and for an adequate and efficient animal disease eradication: where does the animal came from and with which animals has it been in contact? This requirement is met with animal identification and movement registration. At first sight this means that animals need to be fitted with an ear tag and that movement from  one place (farm) to another (farm, market, slaughterhouse) are recorded. EU legislation requires this. However the set-up of such a system is very complicated and needs a lot of technical arrangements and it also needs fundamental compliance by the farmers and traders. Compliance depends partly on (fear for) sanctions. But the main incentive for compliance is that the large majority of the stakeholders are convinced that such system is required and that they see their own interest in compliance. How far away from practice was the Minister of a central European country when he said to me that he would implement the EU requirements for Identification and movement control within half a year: “we issue a Law and provide all local vets a set of ear tags”. This top down approach will not work, because of the reluctance of the farmers and traders. Why would they invest time and effort in fulfilling the needs of the government? With the implication that at the end of the day the tax inspector may come to see if they have provided the correct details on their stock? Efficient animal identification is available in countries where the system was built on a herd book registration set up by the farmers themselves, so that they could get reliable information on breeding value of animals. When such a system was already there, then the government could use the opportunity to link it with their requirements.



4.4. In a (non-EU) country preventive vaccination was used to control Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The official policy was to aim at a blanket vaccination so that the circulation of the virus would be stopped. However the availability of vaccine was limited because of shortage of funds. In fact only certain regions were provided with supplies of vaccine, dependent on how much money was available in that particular year. To alleviate the financial constraints it was decided to ask a contribution of the farmers, when the animals were vaccinated. This would generate financial resources to allow for a larger part of the animal population to be vaccinated: obviously to the benefit of the farmers, so their contribution was well motivated. When presented with this policy I asked what would happen if a farmer refused or just was unable to pay his contribution. My counterpart answered that in such case his animals would not receive the vaccine. By all means a consequent reasoning: however it will make the policy to control FMD completely ineffective. In the vaccinated area there will be two kinds of animals: vaccinated and non-vaccinated. In the non-vaccinated animals the virus will still be able to proliferate. The circulation of virus in the herd will continue and the money spent on the control of the disease is almost completely wasted. The lesson: either you perform the job good, with precision and consequence, or leave it.

In the same way adequate animal disease control depends on correct reporting of suspected (or confirmed) cases. I have encountered several countries where the official line is clear: each and every suspicion has to be reported to the authorities and immediate action is taken according to internationally agreed practices. However, from practice, down the line, in the small villages, the local veterinarian very well knows he is dependent for his job on the power of the local governor or other political leader. This may lead to the point where it is made clear to the vet that he should not report a suspicion of a serious animal disease. For the poor vet the local chief is more important than the official authorities far away in the capital. Let alone that this local vet has some understanding of the significance of proper reporting (passive surveillance) for official guarantees in international trade.


4.5. On the other hand in the Western world, governed by the notion of sound scientific practice, we may not understand how our colleagues have to interact in their own country where culture and politics are based on other frames of reference. Zero risk exists only in theory. Risk therefore has to be weighed in a complex of arguments. In a country where the decision maker risks capital punishment in case his decision turns into an unfavourable situation, the outcome of his assessment may well differ from the expectations of his Western colleagues. BSE has developed to a big food scare in the years between 1994 until well into the first decade of the 21st century. The basis of the EU policy is now the acceptance of strict control measures that lead to adequate guarantees, that however nót lead to an absolute zero risk. As consequence cases of BSE still occur which are considered as inevitable and as such acceptable. However in some countries around the world a case of BSE would lead to serious personal consequences for the Chief Veterinary Officer (and probably others). Negotiations on BSE-guarantees between this CVO and his EU counterparts will obviously be very difficult.


4.6. The key philosophy in Twinning is that the Beneficiary country officers are supported with advice and knowledge from the Member State colleagues. It should be avoided that the Twinning partners from the Member State side deliver “ready-made” solutions. A turnkey result in a Twinning project is a missed chance: it represents a failure of cooperation. It will be clear that the Member State staff has to sail around these cliffs all the time: it is tempting to let Member State staff produce the results, as they can often do that in a very efficient way. The failure is that the result is in that case a copy-paste result, not an achievement of intensive discussion to find the best way to realise the objective (mandatory result) within the context of the beneficiary country. The Member State project leader has to find the right balance between efficient achievement of benchmarks by letting his own experts do the job and in fact complete failure of the project because the beneficiary country counterparts do not perform as agreed in the Work Plan. This is by all means a delicate task that requires diplomatic and political skills.

In a certain country, characterised by a high degree of consultancy dependence, I refused a large cooperation project offered to me, because I felt that in fact we had to do the job. Of course the beneficiary counterparts assured that they would be finally responsible and that they would be committed to the achievements. But I sensed that their input would be limited to sitting and watching while we were doing the job. The results achieved would not be sustainable, because obviously there would not be a real ownership at the beneficiary side.     


4.7. Authority is often perceived in Eastern and Southern European countries to be associated with highest level of technical-scientific knowledge. The influence of personal characteristics like charisma, vision, leadership and managerial skills are often not recognised. As a consequence the “boss” is not inclined to listen to arguments, because he considers himself automatically to be the expert. Disputes are settled on power more than on analysis and weighing of arguments from different viewpoints. “Of course I am the Chief Veterinary Officer because I am Professor at the Veterinary Faculty.” The consequence of this is often a bad management practice, disinterest on the part of the staff in the department, hastily decision-making and shortfall of strategic thinking.

Because it is an existing reality in many potential Beneficiary Countries we have to realise that in a project in the veterinary area only a MS Project Leader who is a veterinarian himself is acceptable. The fact that persons not from the veterinary profession can be found in the highest positions in veterinary services and inspectorates in Western European countries is not understood in the East and the South.







[1]   ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/financial.../2012/manual_may_2012.pdf


[2]  Institution building as a notion is somewhat more specific as compared to capacity building: Wiki gives for capacity building: "… a conceptual approach to development that focuses on understanding the obstacles that inhibit people, governments, international organisations and non-governmental organisations from realizing their developmental goals while enhancing the abilities that will allow them to achieve measurable and sustainable results".


[3]  Personal information from representatives from EU Commission. A useful source of information is the evaluation performed from the perspective of a new Member State (Twinning Projects: Analysing the Experience of Old EU Member States and Evaluating Benefits of Twinning Out for the Czech Republic; 2006, Prague; RM01/04/04; www.iir.cz). In 2010 an evaluation of the Twinning instrument and assessment of its efficacy has been performed under the auspices of the EU Commission: the results are available at:  ec.europa.eu/europeaid/where/.../20121002-final-report_en.pdf


[4]   for example: in a project on strengthening veterinary capabilities an issue may well be the establishment of a contingency plan for handling an outbreak of Classical Swine Fever. However, if during the project implementation the Beneficiary country is struggling with another disease, like Avian Influenza, there is no interest to work on Classical Swine Fever. So in that case better use the capacity to work on a contingency plan on Avian Influenza. Such flexibility needs already attention in the formulation of the Work Plan: the mandatory result is (in this example) best be defined as: the development of a contingency plan for animal disease control (for instance Classical Swine Fever). This leaves the freedom to change the content of the activity in accordance of the actual need. It should be noted that changes in the agreed Work Plan need a lot of bureaucratic procedures.


[5]  The arguments to decide whether or not to pursue participation in a Twinning project are subject to internal policy decisions of the participating organisation(s). To summarise in detail is outside the scope of this paper, because it belongs to the discretion of the respective decision makers. Arguments that play a role: Twinning is an instrument of EU policy in enlargement and neighbourhood policy. In this sense government institutions are implementing the policy of their national government as EU Member State. Participation in twinning will increase the organisation’s visibility and its experience. It will allow the building of international networks, strengthening the position in the EU framework of inspection and control, the exchange of knowledge and the promotion of national ideas and insights. Part of the story is also that Twinning may support in an indirect way the interest of national industry: it could very well pave the way and open doors. Participation will also be beneficial for the own staff to acquire international experience and knowledge, to become really “Community Inspectors”. An argument often forgotten is that participation in Twinning will be subsidised from EU funds, originating from the contribution of Member States. The participation in Twinning will allow (part of) the money to flow back in the country (the so-called principle of “juste retour”).


[6]  http://ec.europa.eu/food/fvo/ir_search_en.cfm


[7]  As an example: at the time of the unrest following the cartoons in the Jyllands Posten, it was not very logical to choose Denmark as a consortium partner for a Twinning in an Arabic country. Sometimes the issues may be much more subtle like criticism on the part of the Member State directed to the Beneficiary Country in one of the EU meetings.


[8]  The Twinning Manual specifies exactly the costs that are reimbursable from the project budget. The fees as well as travel costs and DSA are exactly specified, so a negotiation in Twinning will not be about price: the financial discussions are about whether the costs can be covered according to the rules of the Manual and whether the budget stays within the limits of the funds allocated. Competition on price plays no role at all in Twinning.


[9]  The communication between individuals in The Netherlands is often perceived as being utterly blunt by people from other countries, where communication is likely to be more indirect and more polite. In some countries there is a reluctance to report problems to the superiors, so the “boss” only hears the good news. There may be a hidden tendency to avoid saying “no”; instead it is felt to be preferable to find other reasons or excuses around the real reason. Differences in body language may be important: in some countries shaking the head may have exactly the opposite meaning as in our part of the world.


[10]   http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/fukuyama/2012/05/08/the-two-europes/


10  Managing Cultural Dynamics, Jitske Kramer: ISBN 978-90-814494-1-0


[12]  The Twinning Manual indicates that the costs to be covered by the project budget imply (in broad lines): salary of the MS staff during stay in the BC, plus cost of travel and daily allowance. The salary costs are reimbursed according to fixed rates in three categories according to experience. On top of the salary compensation 150% is added for administrative costs. For the RTA the actual salary paid by the MS institution is reimbursed plus 6% for administrative handling and the RTA is provided with allowances for housing, insurance etc. The key issue of the financing of Twinning project respective of the MS side is therefore that only activities in the BC are covered based on the number of days spent abroad. The fee for these days amounts to standard tariff (in three categories) plus 150% for management and overhead. Any costs of activities inside the MS, or other costs (like contingencies), including the time spent inside the MS on study visits and administration is to be covered from the 150%. It is important to note that the standard rate for civil servants from Ministries is fixed at € 250 per day, while for registered Mandated Bodies the rates are substantially higher (€ 250, € 350 and € 450 for respective categories, and upon explicit approval from EU Commission topping up can take place to € 330, € 450 and € 550). Explicit approval from EU Commission is also required for the status of Mandated Body.    


[13]  Flexibility is a key issue: it could be that the Beneficiary Country is even unable to guarantee adequate functioning of the office facilities: in one project we were confronted with a power failure that lasted exceptionally long: several months. At a certain point in time the RTA was visited by somebody, who offered to provide electricity from somewhere around provided he was given 40 euro for a cable. The RTA gave him the euro-notes and indeed: one day later a power cable was mounted through the window at the 7th floor, providing the RTA office with power for computers and air conditioner. But of course only for the RTA office: the rest of the 10 floor’s building remained devoid from electrical power.


[14]   In The Netherlands courses for participants from potential Beneficiary Countries (Candidate Member States and countries under the European Neighbourhood Policy) are organised under the MATRA program. In these courses participants from governmental area are trained in principles and practices of EU regarding for instance food safety and animal health.