- Guest Commentator

Ulrike Damyanovic and Simona Rinaldi
European Training Foundation (ETF), Turin, Italy

Benefiting from the new positive energy through South East Europe Investment Committee

The transfer of the South East Europe Investment Committee (SEEIC) under the auspices of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) is good news. The European Training Foundation (ETF) was part of the hand-over meeting in Paris in November 2011 where “Building a 2020 Vision for South East Europe” was endorsed by ministers and high ranking officials as input for future economic reforms. The ETF welcomes this move because it means that the decisions will be taken closer to the beneficiaries with more ownership and accountability. The move from Paris to Sarajevo has also the potential to create increased regional commitment of this important initiative for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Many initiatives have been carried out in the last decade for private sector development and are a rich resource to build upon.

And we saw the first signs of this new spirit at the 10th meeting of the Committee on 24 and 25 April 2012, where we discussed co-operation modalities and a draft work programme. There was a new positive energy during the meeting. The participants identified joint regional priorities, targets and activities. Also, on-going initiatives and their roll out for economies of scale were discussed. The representatives of the countries submitted several concrete proposals for activities, and were truly engaged in the discussions about the future work. All these could help to define common denominators for future interventions and feed into accession programming.

The ETF has been active in the region since mid-1990 and will continue to offer support to the countries reforming their human resource development policies on the course to the European integration and in view of EU 2020 strategic objectives. We use European Union (EU) long-tested approaches of peer-learning, open method of coordination to bring to the table all those having a stake in the region’s development. This is what the South East Europe Investment Committee proposes to make the strategies a reality. What we add to the work is our field credibility: we work close with the countries, we know and are known to the stakeholders, and we are here for the long-haul.

There are a number of relevant projects that we have been implementing recently that link country’s competitiveness with human resource development and where we have cooperated with ministries of economies, labour and education and other key-players from the region. Let’s look closer at three examples:

Small Business Act assessment

The ETF supports the pre-accession region by helping the countries align to the EU’s Small Business Act in the area of human resource development. The ETF works together with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The policy reviews, data analysis and exchanges with countries policymakers and small and medium business community focus on entrepreneurial learning and enterprise skills. This is vital intersection where competencies meet competitiveness.

Matching skills needs on the labour market with skills supply

Skills mismatch—a challenge in most of the region’s countries—adversely impacts on the individuals and whole economies, resulting in youth unemployment and low competitiveness of enterprises. ETF project provides methodological instruments for measuring the mismatch, helps monitor and anticipate skills requirements, and elaborates policy briefs with recommendations for better matching approaches. Our ultimate goal is to help to address the skills gap and allow private business to grow and create new jobs.

Regional value chain analysis in Montenegro

In 2012, the ETF started value-chain analysis in dairy sector in Montenegro. The objective of the study is to understand why the quality dairy products from the north cannot reach domestic market and tourism regions in the south. The project aims at strengthening the capacities of the national and local stakeholders to better link the employment policy with job creation and contribute to a more inclusive labour market. Even if the project is implemented in one country, it has produced precious insights to design value-chain initiatives on cross-country basis. 

Apart from these examples, the Human Resources Development reviews that ETF has carried out upon request of Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion—an analysis of vocational education and training (VET) reform, employment and social inclusion policies—provided us with a wealth of data on human resources development in the countries of South East Europe. Now this information is at the Committees disposal, as is our experience in linking the world of learning with the world of work and business, while promoting social inclusion in a competitive world.

In order to achieve common goals and use the opportunities the Committee offers, we need to make sure we find constructive answers to some crucial questions. How to ensure that everybody is on board and feels that they have a stake in the regional progress? Especially, how to do it in the times of the economic hardship? How to link education and training on the one hand with employment and labour market on the other hand? How to identify country priorities, find synergies, and to ensure good harmonisation on the regional level, and make sure the country work contributes to regional development and vice versa.

These are challenging questions whose answers will determine the success of our common work. The new set up of the Committee brought with it the new vigour. Now we need to translate it into an effective action.

Ulrike Damyanovic, has been with the European Training Foundation since 1996. She has worked in education and training for the labour market for more then 20 years. She has managed country and multi-country activities and projects in the new EU Member States, Middle East and North Africa, and the Western Balkans. Since January 2011, Damyanovic is the Head of Unit for Western Balkans and Turkey in the ETF's Operations Department.

Simona Rinaldi has been with the European Training Foundation since 1998, and currently is country manager for Croatia and Belarus, and is ETF contact person for SEE Investment Committee. Rinaldi worked with the Tempus programme and has participated in country activities and projects in the new EU Member States, Eastern European Neighbourhood and the Western Balkans.


Ulrike Damyanovic and Simona Rinaldi, European Training Foundation (ETF), Turin, Italy (Photo: courtesy of Mss Damyanovic and Rinaldi)

Ulrike Damyanovic and Simona Rinaldi, European Training Foundation (ETF), Turin, Italy (Photo: courtesy of Mss Damyanovic and Rinaldi)