ReSPA Secretariat

ReSPA Director

Ms. Maja Handjiska Trendafilova Ms. Maja Handjiska TrendafilovaReSPA Director

Ms Handjiska Trendafilova’s professional career of two decades, drawing upon regional and international multilateral experience, has chiefly been dedicated to furthering the EU integration and regional cooperation processes in the Western Balkans.

Heading the Programme Department in RCC, she has been in charge of coordinating, implementing, and monitoring the first regional development and growth Strategy – SEE2020, the Multi-Annual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area, and the Common Regional Market agenda, as endorsed by Western Balkans Prime Ministers. Steering intergovernmental regional platforms in numerous policy areas, she has significantly contributed to deepening regional cooperation; substantial regional mutual learning, know-how, and best practice exchange; enhanced institutional capacities, legislative and policy reforms, as well as a number of regional multilateral legal instruments, agreements, and protocols.

She has over a decade-long experience within the national administration, where she led the programming process for the use of EU and bilateral assistance and coordinated the EU-funded cross-border cooperation programmes; followed by a diplomatic service within the Mission to the EU in Brussels.
Further to her political and diplomatic expertise, paired with strong technical and analytical skills, she has also worked on programme development, partnership, and resource mobilization in the areas of migration management and counter-trafficking for IOM.

A mother of two children, she is an ardent advocate for women's economic empowerment, inclusive policy-making, and an integrated Western Balkans region.


ReSPA Core Staff

Mr. Gentian Xhaxhiu Mr. Gentian XhaxhiuLegal Manager and Programme Coordinator

Mr Xhaxhiu studied Law at the University of Tirana (Albania) as well as holds an Executive Master Degree in EU Studies by the Centre International de Formation Européenne (Berlin, Germany). He has attended the Programme of the School of Public Affairs of Paris (Sciences Po) in Management and Public Policy and has successfully completed the Annual Programme of the School of Political Studies of the Council of Europe.

As of 2011, Gentian has covered many duties within the Albanian public administration mainly dealing with European integration, regional cooperation, coordination of IPA Programmes, etc. He is a lecturer in the School of Public Administration of Albania, delivering the modules related to EU funding, team building and public speaking. During 2018-2019, Gentian has been engaged as a research fellow at the Institute for Jewish Research, in New York. During his stay in the US, Gentian attended a number of qualifications at Harvard University and the University of Virginia.

He has an excellent command of English and Italian language and a fair command of French.

Gentian is very passionate about history (especially related to WW2 and its aftermath) and swimming. He also loves detective novels and has read more than 50 of them from various authors.

Mr. Borislav Orechovski Mr. Borislav OrechovskiOperations and Finance Manager

Mr Orechovski graduated from the Faculty of Economy, University of Skopje and later became a Certified Public auditor (CPA)

He has 18 years of experience in auditing, finance management and internal control/ compliance in the private sector. The first 5 years as auditor, gave him strong knowledge in International auditing standards (IAS) and International financial reporting standards (IFRS), as well as oversight of the business environment of different companies both in private and public sector. In 2007 he “switched sides” and started working in a Telekom company progressing to the position of Head of finance. This gave him the opportunity to use his knowledge in development of finance operations and processes, as well as acquiring management skills. In the 11 years in the finance management area, he spent the last 2 years as a CFO/board member of a production plant, where he acquired skills in the area of strategic management, and further developed his leadership skills. In his most recent role, he has combined his auditing and finance operation skills, and worked in a pharmaceutical company as Financial compliance and control manager for Macedonia, Albania Croatia and Kosovo.

He is a people person with hands on attitude, enjoys to learn and improve, as much as he enjoys to transfer his knowledge to other people. He values other people opinions and likes teaming with colleagues in reaching the organization goals and strategies.

Borislav is a husband, father of two and a friend, currently hooked on running as main hobby.

Ms. Ranka Bartula-Musikic Ms. Ranka Bartula-MusikicProgramme Manager

Ms Bartula-Musikic joined ReSPA in 2011 and she was among the first ReSPA employees. After working for 5 years as a Programme Assistant she went through the recruitment process in 2016 and started working as a programme Manager, managing HRMD thematic area and, until recently, procurement and ethics and integrity. By continually improving her knowledge and skills she was a lead manager in development of ReSPA Strategy and ReSPA monitoring and evaluation system.

Before joining ReSPA she worked for 10 years in an international organisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina on development of cooperation programmes and projects, with emphasis on social protection, access to justice and capacity building of nascent civil society and institutional development in post-conflict and transition context. During this ten-year engagement she went through all stages and climbed up from executive to managerial position. She gained valuable technical competencies in complex project assessment, strategic planning, social research, programme design and monitoring and evaluation. For three years she worked in the Ministry of European Integration of Montenegro. She managed TA projects and supported the establishment of CBC programmes and relevant structures.

She graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Sarajevo and obtained university degree in English language and literature.

Ranka is a nature-lover, she enjoys walking, swimming and design, enjoying in all of these often together with her husband and two grownups, one student and one teenager.

Ms. Olivera Damjanovic Ms. Olivera DamjanovicProgramme Manager

Ms. Olivera Damjanovic has joined ReSPA in November 2020 on the position of Programme Manager for the intervention areas of Quality management and e Government.

Olivera has graduated at the Faculty of Economics, University of Banja Luka, BiH. She has excellent command of English and Italian language.

Before joining ReSPA Olivera has gained more than 15 years of experience at senior management level in the public administration of BiH. As a member or representative in inter-ministerial and EU working groups and subcommittee, she gave her contribution in the area of concessions/public procurement, public administration reform and Energy Community. The work in public administration was preceded with ten years of work in UK and US international organizations and managing of the programmes dealing with access to justice and public finances, with projects managed from the grass-root level that over time became model for national strategy development and/or resulted in policy changes. Olivera conducted several complex researches regarding access to justice and public finances pertaining to justice sector. As independent consultant she has drafted National strategy for juvenile justice in BiH and within expert teams was engaged in developing feasibility study in private public partnership and in the area of public procurement. As an assessor she provided her contribution to assessing regional cross-border projects in Montenegro.

Olivera is fond of nature and in the spare time she enjoys hiking, music and tai chi with keeping interest alive in literature and history. She is mum of two grownups, son and daughter.

Mr. Jelena Mrdak Mr. Jelena MrdakProgramme Manager

Jelena Mrdak has over 20 years of professional experience, during which she has demonstrated leadership in managing projects supporting public administration reform and Montenegro's integration into the European Union.

As the EU Accession and Public Administration Reform Programme Manager at UNDP Montenegro, Jelena has implemented initiatives to design the legal framework for policy development and coordination, and to improve evidence-based policymaking in collaboration with researchers and academia. She has coordinated efforts to address business barriers and build capacities for conducting Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Jelena has supported the government’s efforts to reform the civil service legal framework, optimize public administration, and enable merit-based recruitment. She has managed activities promoting transparency and accountability in public finance management at national and local levels. Jelena forged a partnership with the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre to create an innovative anti-corruption tool for public authorities and supported the development of Montenegro's Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.

Jelena has led initiatives to support the coordination of Montenegro's EU accession negotiations, provided technical assistance to meet negotiation benchmarks—focusing on anti-corruption, state aid, environment, and domestic handling of war crimes—and managed projects to enhance citizen understanding and support for European integration.

Jelena is a mother of twins and volunteers at the Community Garden in Podgorica. She enjoys reading, skiing, hiking, and is a passionate advocate for gender equality,

Ms. Jelisaveta Tasev Ms. Jelisaveta TasevProgramme Manager

Jelisaveta Tasev is a programme manager at ReSPA with over 12 years of professional experience in public administration, governance, EU accession negotiations, international relations, regional cooperation, policy advising and regulatory and policy development.

Jelisaveta has vast experience working for the national administration in various posts, from junior to senior and management roles. For most of her career, she has been engaged in EU accession negotiations in chapters dealing with energy, transport, Trans- European networks, information society, audio-visual media services and electronic communications. In addition, she worked on regulatory and public administration reforms in the aforementioned fields, the harmonization of laws and legislative alignment with the EU acquis, policy-making and policy advising, having been seconded twice to public administrations in France and Slovenia. Prior to joining ReSPA, Jelisaveta held a managerial position within the national administration, working on policy and regulatory matters in the areas of cybersecurity, trust services, and digital transformation.

She holds a law degree, majoring in Criminal Law, a master’s degree in International Business Law and is currently pursuing a PhD in EU and International Law at the School of Law, University of Belgrade. Jelisaveta has received extensive diplomatic training from the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia and the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.

Due to her early career engagement in the work with asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, Jelisaveta is particularly interested in human migration, statelessness, human and minority rights, citizenship and asylum. Her academic research is mostly dedicated to studying the rule of law as an EU value, the effects of EU law, EU constitutionalisation, integration and enlargement and EU citizenship.

In her spare time, Jelisaveta enjoys reading and a myriad of outdoor activities. She is a cynology enthusiast dedicated to community activities contributing to animal welfare.

Ms. Ivana Bajo Ms. Ivana BajoPersonal Assistant to the Director

Ms Bajo studied Public Administration (bacc. admin. publ.) at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, as well as holds a Specialists degree (Spec.Sci) in EU Studies from the Faculty of Social Science, University of Montenegro.

Prior to joining the ReSPA in 2011, Ivana Bajo gained work experience in both public and private sector. As a public servant, she served in the Cabinet of the State Secretary in the Central Office for Development Strategy and Coordination of EU Funds of the Republic of Croatia and Office for Gender Equality of the Government of the Republic of Croatia. Ivana Bajo also worked as an assistant in the Law Service in Croatia Records and private company Orfej, Zagreb.

Ivana is very passionate about gastronomy. She enjoys travelling, jazz and long walks.

She is the mum of a toddler girl.

Ms. Natasa Kuc Ms. Natasa KucFinance/Operations Assistant

Ms Nataša Kuč holds a BSc in Marketing and Business Administration from the Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in the USA. She obtained the certificate for Accounting technician from the Institute of Accountants and Auditors of Montenegro.

Nataša's working experience before joining ReSPA team relates to her engagement in the various UN agencies: UNFAO, IOM, UNICEF, and UNDP where she worked in the field of finance, administration, HR, procurement, fundraising, and other tasks related to the operations. The most challenging and, at the same time, the exciting experience was turning the sub-office into a country office and modifying the entry system to work in a new setup.

Her previous experience was useful when she joined ReSPA in 2012, and the Operation unit was starting from scratch. She acts as a Permanent Secretary in the procurement evaluation committee.

Nataša enjoys travelling, cycling, gardening, and reading. She is the mum of one grownup and two teenage boys.

Mr. Milutin Rasovic Mr. Milutin RasovicIT Technician

Mr Rašović has joined ReSPA from the very beginning. By covering the position of IT Technician, he made a significant contribution towards implementing new technologies, installation, and maintenance of ReSPA’s IT system.
Prior to joining ReSPA in 2010, Mr Rašović served for ten years as the IT Engineer in Telenor Montenegro, a member of the global Telenor group - one of the leaders in the mobile communications sector globally. During his work in Telenor, he was in charge of providing support of IT hardware, security, software, and networks; administration of servers and different IT systems and managing IT strategy and planning.

Mr Rasovic graduated from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Podgorica (University of Montenegro) with Ba. Degree in Applied Computer Science.

Milutin enjoys travelling and swimming. He is married, father of a teenage girl.

Ms. Marija Orovic Ms. Marija OrovicProgramme Assistant

Ms Orović completed Master of Business Psychology and Management at the Faculty of International Economics, Finance and Business, Podgorica, Montenegro.

Ms Orović has been at ReSPA since 2011. In the capacity of ReSPA Programme Assistant, she was involved in the implementation of a number of high-level activities related to Public Administration Reform and Programme Committee of ReSPA, created to boost interregional cooperation among the ReSPA Members. Besides, she was a Member of ReSPA CAF Self-assessment team.

With the 15 years of overall professional experience, she feels confident to work hard and contribute to achieving ReSPA objectives.

She is married, mother of two. In her free time, she is devoted to systemic psychotherapy and is a lover of art paintings.

Ms. Vanja Ivanovic Ms. Vanja IvanovicProgramme Assistant

Ms Ivanovic graduated from the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, University of Montenegro, and obtained a degree in tourism.

She worked in the private sector for almost five years and was responsible for the successful implementation of many event services.

Ms Ivanovic has been the Programme Assistant at ReSPA since 2014 and had an active role in each organisational phase (preparation, implementation and follow up) of the various ReSPA activities with the special focus on the area of Human Resource Management and Development, Public-Private Partnership and Administrative Procedures and Administrative Justice.

Vanja enjoys national dances, and she enjoys travelling.

Mr. Vladimir Nikolic Mr. Vladimir NikolicProgramme Assistant

Vladimir holds a diploma of the political scientist; he graduated from the Academy of Diplomacy and Security in Belgrade (Serbia). Moreover, he has also trained in the field of international relations and engaged in a number of trainings and seminars under the auspices of UN and European institutions.

Vladimir has been the Programme Assistant at ReSPA since 2015. He has a strong interest in all areas of public-sector governance including cooperation and exchange of experience within thematic areas of the Centre of Governments and Better Regulation. Vladimir's comprehensive professional experience includes also EU financed project related to the quality of public service, CSO’s and works within the local self-government.

He is committed to family and interested in handball, history and hiking.

Mr. Slaven Bukarica Mr. Slaven BukaricaProgramme Assistant

Mr Bukarica graduated from the Faculty of Philology, University of Montenegro and obtained a degree in English language and literature.

Mr Bukarica worked in the private sector as an Event Manager for almost ten years. During this stage of his career, he was responsible for the implementation of many Long Term Agreements for Provision of Event Services for a wide range of public institutions, international organisation and NGOs.

For the past three years, he has been working as a Programme Assistant at ReSPA and being actively involved in improving regional cooperation, especially in the area of Quality Management and eGovernment.

Slaven is a nature-lover, movie fan and traveller.

Mr. Janko Rovcanin Mr. Janko Rovcanin Driver and General Services

Janko Rovcanin, is the Driver and General Services, at ReSPA (Regional School of Public Administration), the innovative centre of interregional cooperation among the Balkan States and a centre of excellence for training and capacity building in the public administration reform.


ReSPA Project Staff

Ms. Milena Draca Ms. Milena DracaCommunication & Visibility Officer

Ms Draca graduated from the Faculty of Economy, University of Nis and obtained a Master’s degree in Economic science from the same university.

More than 20 years of her experience in Public Relations and Marketing field can be summarised in three stages. The first stage lasted for more than ten years, during her work in a marketing agency where she was in charge of the most prominent clients and climbed up to the Executive position. The second stage started when she moved to the client-side and worked as the Marketing and PR Director in a few companies from different industries. Her becoming the Communication & Visibility Expert and Media Consultant on the UNDP and EU projects has started the third stage of her career.

By continually improving her knowledge in a fast-growing and changing field of operation such as Marketing and Public Relations, she has developed and implemented numerous Marketing and Communication strategies and media outreach for various products/services/institutions. Cooperation with all types of media (both traditional and online), preparation and coordination of Market research, budgeting and development of procurement procedures, event management, digital marketing management are some of her expertise.
She often says that she knows how Marketing and PR work as a whole, but the essence of success is building trust, open and assertive relations among colleagues and associates.

Milena is a nature-lover, she enjoys yoga, mountaineering, cycling and jazz. She is the mum of a grownup.

Ms. Bojana Bajic Ms. Bojana BajicPublic Policies Innovations and Digitalization Officer

Ms Bajic studied at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Podgorica and postgraduate studies in Zagreb.

Bojana is an IT expert (person) with extensive knowledge and experience in various areas of information technology. She has attended a lot of training sessions to enhance her skills and expertise in the area of information system development and IT service management (ITIL certification), possesses a strong understanding of technologies and tools that support modern business operations and is capable of efficiently solving problems and making informed decisions in a dynamic environment.

Digitalization "by default" is the goal of decades of Bojana’s work, guided by the desire for information technologies to be applied in the work of employees in public administration, as well as that the application of these technologies provides benefits to citizens and businesses when they have communication with public administration.

For almost 32 years, the focus work activities were related to:

•           Development and analysis of databases, as well as software development;

•           Electronic signature and electronic identification;

•           e-Commerce;

•           Interoperability;

•           Open data and artificial intelligence;

•           European integration and participation in the work of many international bodies in the information society, etc.

The digitization of public administration, given the number of years dedicated to this work, included work on many large information systems of state bodies and state administration bodies, which began back in 1991, with the development of information systems for citizens registers and the tax information system, the introduction of these information systems in Montenegrin municipalities, with the aim of digitizing public administration and providing better services to citizens and businesses.

Later, activities on policy making in the field of information society and the development of numerous large public administration information systems followed, with the aim of establishing interoperability of information systems and integration into the information system of public administration were the focus of her work. Special attention was paid to active participation in the implementation of many projects of the Delegation of the European Commission and World Bank.

She has participated in the work of multiple working groups during Montenegro's accession process to the European Union.

Bojana was named a "Manager of the Year" in Public Administration in 2021, for the results in the field of digital transformation of public administration in the previous period, after the most recently successful implementation projects and the last of them was the project of electronic fiscalization in the trade of products and services in Montenegro of all taxpayers and for all types of payments, cash and cashless.

Bojana is very passionate about art and beauty in different areas (nature, culture, home design, food, etc.).  According to her opinion, days spent by the sea are the most important supplements for a happy, healthy and long life.

MS Bajic is married and has two children.

Ms. Ivana Petricevic Ms. Ivana PetricevicPartnership and Knowledge Management Officer

Ms Petricevic is an Adult Education Specialist with over 20 years of work experience gained while working in the field of policy development and project management at a national and regional level.

Being a passionate believer in the power of education, Ivana started her professional career by working on EU OBNOVA Project supporting the education reform process in Montenegro and continued to follow this path for years, working on EU projects and in the Ministry of Education and Science of Montenegro.

This passion has been paired over the years with another important guiding idea – the one of Montenegro joining the European Union. To provide support in making this idea a reality Ms Petricevic was involved in various EU accession processes in Montenegro, including coordination of responses to the Questionnaire for Chapter 26 (Education and Culture); heading of Negotiating Group for Chapter 22 (Cohesion Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments); her membership in  Government Commission for EU Integration and coordination of EU financial assistance programmes to Montenegro.

Ivana joined ReSPA in 2023 as a Partnership and Knowledge Management Officer, after gaining vast experience in a regional cooperation environment during her posting in Brussels.

She enjoys reading and travelling.

Ms. Jonida Llaci Ms. Jonida LlaciProject Assistant

Ms Llaci studied Accounting and European Business Law at the University of Tirana and holds a LL.M. European Master in Law and Economics, a joint degree pursued from the University of Bologna, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and the University of Vienna. She attends the Annual Programme of the School of Political Studies of the Council of Europe.

As of 2013, Jonida has covered many duties within the Albanian Public Administration, mainly dealing with analysis, monitoring, and reporting of the budget, revenues and expenses, and public administration. During this period, she attended several qualifications from the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, the Albanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the U.S. Embassy, and the Albanian School of Public Administration.

She has an excellent command of English and Italian and a fair command of French, Spanish, German, and Turkish.

Jonida is passionate about travelling, animals, nature, art, and culture and enjoys learning and improving herself personally and professionally.


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