Western Balkans

Economic and Social Affairs Platform Project in the Western Balkans

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) will jointly create a sub-regional Western Balkans Platform on Employment and Social Affairs in order to strengthen subregional cooperation in adopting and implementing effective labour market and social policy reforms.

Candidate countries in the Western Balkans still suffer from a weak performance of the labour market, which translates into low economic activity rates (particularly among women) as well as into high unemployment (especially among youth), high share of informality and prevalence of migration. Governments have limited capacities to address these challenges due to low economic growth and large fiscal deficits. National social dialogue processes are also constrained by polarized discussions on labour market and labour law reforms in this context.

In response to these challenges, the International Labour Organization and the Regional Cooperation Council, developed a new project “Economic and Social Affairs Platform”, in line with the IPA II Annual Multi-country Action Programme 2015 priorities.

The project will strengthen the sub-regional cooperation and institutional capacities of Western Balkans’ governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations as well as tripartite institutions, enabling them to jointly adopt and effectively implement labour market and social policy reforms thus advancing their EU pre-accession process.

The 3 million EUR project will be financed by the European Commission and will be jointly implemented by the ILO and the Regional Cooperation Council in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (as defined by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244). The project team will be based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ESAP will create a long-term network for Western Balkan governments and social partners to draw on international, regional, national and European experiences when formulating and implementing policies and reforms in the areas of social dialogue, labour administration and public employment services.

The project will encompass face-to-face and virtual activities, such as sub-regional meetings, bilateral exchanges, and development of new tools and information material. A virtual platform will be set up to follow and complement in-person activities. This virtual platform is expected to be fully established and operational within the timeframe of this project.

The project has been structured in the following components:

Component 1 will add to on-going efforts of the ILO for developing governments’ and social partners’ institutional capacity to engage in effective social dialogue. Activities will seek to identify, capture and disseminate national experiences and good practices regarding social dialogue institutions and processes.

Component 2 will contribute to developing close relationships and trust between sub-regional labour inspections, promoting information and knowledge sharing related to the alignment of national legislation to international labour standards and EU directives in the field of occupational health and safety, strategies and tools for the formalization of the informal employment and undeclared work, and institutional responses to compliance problems. Sub-regional annual meetings will be organized inspired by the EU Senior Labour Inspectorates Committee model. National level actions, such as thematic campaigns, will be also supported.

Through component 3, the ILO will provide technical assistance to the Regional Cooperation Council to ensure the effective involvement of employers’ and workers’ organizations in the Council’s work and in the advisory boards of public employment services following the modern European model. The ILO will provide its technical expertise and share relevant experiences and practices with the RCC, including those acquired during the process of Country Review of Employment Polices, which contributed to the establishment of a sub-regional public employment service network and introduced the peer review practices.

The project will last 36 months from April 2016 until March 2019. It will include specific measures to ensure results’ sustainability beyond the project’s lifespan. Women participation in all of its activities will be strongly encouraged.