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The ETF and the EU Delegations

Year/Date: 06/12/2017


Skills, education, employability, lifelong learning- important areas of EU assistance to the countries of the Enlargement region. The ETF works closely with the EU Delegations, providing expertise and technical advice. To strengthen and streamline the cooperation, the ETF welcomed Delegations to the Western Balkans and Turkey, and European Commission colleagues, to Turin for a two-day information-sharing seminar.

Organised together with the Directorate General for Employment (DG EMPL) and the Directorate General European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), it was an opportunity for representatives working in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey to get a better understanding of the ETF’s expertise.

Opening the initiative, ETF Director Cesare Onestini said it would help to boost and synchronise work. ‘As agenda accelerators, we need to be working together as one. You, the Delegations are directly in contact with the realities of the countries – you help translate our messages into concrete actions.’

Tuning in via video link, Genoveva Ruiz-Calavera, Director for Western Balkans at DG NEAR, said labour market reform, private sector and skills development, labour mobility and free trade were all key development areas for region. ‘This is an extremely useful two days to contribute to strategy. We want to engage with the region and discuss how we can bring it closer to the EU.’

New ideas and areas of action

Setting the tone of discussions, moderator Kiril Kiryakov, the ETF’s chief liaison with DG EMPL, challenged participants to identify practical ways to ‘further link the ETF’s expertise in skills, employment and vocational education through policy dialogue, financial assistance and European Commission initiatives.’ ETF thematic experts also had an opportunity to present activities in the counties from the governance, entrepreneurship, quality assurance, employment, qualifications and work-based learning perspective.

Alessandra Frontoni, Delegation to Albania, who covers employment, vocational education and social affairs, is a long-time collaborator with the ETF. This seminar provides ‘a different dimension of ETF and sector-focus of intervention,’ she said. ‘The EU Delegation has a close relationship with the ETF’s Country Desk for Albania, but not with all the experts who have a very technical and detailed knowledge and understanding of the issues - this dimension is much clearer now! ‘Thanks to the seminar we are already discussing a possible collaboration to increase the policy dialogue with the Albanian government on teacher training. One day training the second day business!’

Gianluca Vannini, Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who covers employment, social policy and education, welcomed a more proactive approach and informal communication with the ETF moving forward. ‘We have discussed how to improve cooperation. The ETF understands what the Delegation wants and needs and the Delegations understand what the ETF can do!’

Davide Berton, from DG NEAR, works closely with ETF partner countries Kosovo* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on topics of employment, social policy, education and culture. He was keen to build cooperation with DG EMPL. ‘Of course you work together but it is an exchange of emails, this is a sort of team building. It raises the profile of the agency between colleagues and the Delegations.’ ‘Sometimes we are reselling the language of the ETF without necessarily fully understanding it. Here I had the opportunity to go deeper, to say: ‘what is this?’ to the experts.'

Romain Boitard, Delegation to Montenegro, covers social policies, including human capital development, says it was useful to hear the experiences of the other Delegations to better understand common challenges and solutions. He also got a better understanding of the ETF – which he knew as ‘an agency in the north of Italy, very competent, but remote.’ ‘Now I understand the different roles of expertise and who to call according to my needs. Our collaboration will be more effective because it will be faster.’ ‘For other Delegations in the partner countries it would be really regrettable not to optimise this availability!’ He added.

Irena Radinovic, Delegation to Serbia, who covers education, has been involved in the establishment of the national qualifications framework, work-based learning models and professional development of teachers and trainers. ‘I work very closely with the ETF and feel very secure because I know the expertise and the back-up I need in my daily work is there. The ETF has a long history with our countries – a wonderful history, they really are a wealth of knowledge! ‘I attended the workshop on skills anticipation and matching. I didn’t know much about it, so I wanted to learn more. This area is also a very important in the context of our work.’

Simona Gatti, Delegation to Turkey, supervises EU funding for various instruments through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) , as well as refugees, migration and crisis management. ‘The policy dialogue through the ETF is really extremely well appreciated in Turkey and by the Delegation. We have achieved great things such as the alignment of the Turkish Qualifications Framework with the European Qualifications Framework. On migration and the labour integration and social inclusion of refugees – there are 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey - we are looking at skills development, assessment and anticipation of skills.’

Maintaining the momentum

Closing the seminar, co-moderator Christophe Masson, from DG NEAR, emphasised that ‘we are a community together with the ETF and the EU Delegations.' 'Now we find a way to keep the momentum going and improve coordination in the countries with the help of the ETF!’

ETF Director Cesare Onestini said ‘our cooperation is about achieving goals. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to take a country-specific approach and consider the regional level. We have developed a better understanding of what we can do together. We thank all the colleagues involved and look forward hope to see this type of collaboration with the EU Delegations replicated across other regions soon!’

Stay tuned for the next edition with Delegations from the Neighbourhood East in 2018!

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

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