Bolstering the resilience of youth: Youth Guarantee comes to the Western Balkans

The Youth Guarantee launch in the Western Balkans follows the milestone endorsement of the Western Balkans Declaration on ensuring sustainable labour market integration of young people at the Brdo EU-Western Balkans Ministerial meeting on employment and social affairs in July, 2021. 

On 14 October 2021, the European Commission, together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Training Foundation (ETF), and representatives from the Western Balkans launched the preparation of Youth Guarantee (YG) Implementation Plans (YGIPs) and the Technical Assistance Facility (TAF) to support this process. The declaration also recognised the importance of involving international partners and donors in the process to ensure effective coordination of cooperation efforts. Under the Technical Assistance Facility (TAF), the relevant authorities and stakeholders from the Western Balkans will receive support from the ILO and the ETF for designing Youth Guarantee schemes.

Mathieu Bousquet, of the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Lluís Prats, from the Directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Daniela Zampini, senior employment specialist for the ILO, and ETF director Cesare Onestini were present at the meeting, with their Western Balkans partners.

Onestini congratulated the Western Balkans representatives for their commitment to improving their policies concerning youth transition to work, a key challenge in the region where joblessness remains high, a situation made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Following large-scale consultations with young people and research organised by the ETF, ILO, UNICEF, Regional Cooperation Council and other international and regional actors, the extent to which young people are facing extraordinary social, economic, and environmental changes has become clear. Many young people feel unprepared for the future. They expect education programmes to provide wider skillsets and inclusive learning environments, and they hope to have the support of policymakers, parents, teachers, social workers, and community leaders.

“By building on young people’s strengths and resilience, effective transitions towards greener, digital and more equitable societies will be possible,” said Onestini. “To tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow, developing skillsets is essential for realising the potential of everyone”.

EU funding instruments such as the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and Erasmus+ can be used to stimulate the innovation and consolidation of successful practices. Mathieu Bousquet of DG NEAR highlighted that the Youth Guarantee implementation plans will be an opportunity to start discussions so that the Youth Guarantee is strongly anchored in IPA programming. "I want to stress again that the long-term sustainability of the initiative depends on long-term strategic planning and allocating the necessary domestic resources."

The meeting ended with a roundtable during which Western Balkans partners’ representatives provided updates on their Youth Guarantee progress.

As a reminder, the Youth Guarantee is the flagship 10 of the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the region. The ETF is partnering with the EC and the ILO in this initiative and will provide advice and guidance on major components, such as skills development implications of transition from school to work. The ETF will also engage in the progress monitoring once the process has started.

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