Newsletter 24/2012 - From Brussels angle

INTERVIEW with Madlen Serban, Director of the European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy

Translating human capital into concrete areas of cooperation leads to sustainable development of the region

Ms Serban, in light of the 2012 European Commission Enlargement Package, how would you assess the situation in the region from the European Training Foundation’s perspective?

As you know, regional cooperation in the Western Balkans and good neighbourly relations are essential elements of the Enlargement Process and, as such, are closely monitored by the Commission at all stages. The European Training Foundation (ETF), as a specialised European Union (EU) agency, supports the Commission in this process. According to its mandate, ETF helps the countries from the region to harness the potential of their human capital through the reform of education, training and labour market systems.

The ETF considers that a lot has been done in the last years in the area of human capital development, but there is still room for improvement, especially for reforms and measures referring to the skills contributing to inclusive growth. As the 2012 Enlargement Strategy Paper says, the political commitment to implement these reforms is often too weak. “Labour markets remain largely unreformed and vocational education systems do not contribute to reductions in skills mismatch. As a result, workers often seek jobs abroad, which in the short term, benefits the economies through remittances and relief in unemployment; however, in the longer run it limits the potential for growth due to a smaller labour force and brain drain”. In this respect, the ETF is working with a wide range of stakeholders at the country level and regionally to develop a long-term vision for education and training in support to implementing reforms.

What do you see as main bottlenecks of successful regional cooperation in South East Europe?

The ETF participated in the Entrepreneurship–Education Regional Summit “A Charter for Entrepreneurial Learning: The Keystone for Growth and Jobs” on 23 October in Zagreb. In addition we had the chance to attend the ministerial conference of the South East Europe Investment Committee on 9 November in Tirana aiming to support the Western Balkan Countries to strengthen their commitment to the SEE 2020 vision. The contribution of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) is notable. The Ministers agreed that a successful regional cooperation is given by pertinent policy objectives, concrete implementation measures and monitoring mechanisms. We were very happy to have in this respect the endorsement of the Ministers for the ETF work through its Torino Process. This is an ETF participatory exercise, leading to an evidence based analysis for effective policy making and implementation, and supporting the partner countries willing to modernise their education, training and employment systems. The ETF considers that by establishing ambitious regional and economy –specific headline targets and by monitoring their implementation these bottlenecks could be addressed.

What would you highlight as the main priorities for South East European countries in the context of enlargement in the coming year?

The ETF and the RCC agreed that there is a need to enhance the awareness of key regional stakeholders of the importance of human capital for the development of South East Europe (SEE), and translate this priority into concrete areas of cooperation related to sustainable development, evidence-based policy making, governance, labour market and social inclusion, entrepreneurial learning and adult education. Regional cooperation shall remain a priority, because the last years proved that acting together has mutual benefits and ensures complementarity, which represents the strengths of all countries together. In view of SEE 2020 strategy, ETF is developing a new regional project called FRAME, which will support region’s countries in strengthening their capacities to use specific instruments such as skills foresight, institutional assessment and monitoring of human resource development. It will have also a regional component that will facilitate mutual learning among the countries. Ultimately, this project strategically addresses the issue of high youth unemployment and ageing societies.

How would you asses the role of the Regional Cooperation Council in terms of the organisation’s efforts to promote regional cooperation in South East Europe?

Regional cooperation should be regionally owned and driven. And that is why we are glad that the RCC further develops its role in regional cooperation as a platform for the promotion of issues of importance to the whole region and its EU perspective. Further mainstreaming of regional cooperation in the countries’ political agenda is a very important task. Finally we, the ETF, look forward to cooperation with the RCC in all the areas related to human capital, economic and social development under the framework of the renewed cooperation agreement we will sign in the coming days.

Madlen Serban has been Director of the European Training Foundation (ETF) since 1 July 2009.  Before coming to the ETF, she was Director of the National Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Romania. Dr. Serban, has spent most of her career working in the field of vocational education and training. She has a broad international experience from her work as an expert and evaluator for international organisations including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the ETF. Madlen Serban has a PhD in social partnership in education and training from the University of Bucharest.


Madlen Serban, Director of the European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy (Photo: courtesy of Ms Serban)

Madlen Serban, Director of the European Training Foundation, Turin, Italy (Photo: courtesy of Ms Serban)