On 14 October 2021, the European Commission, together with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Training Foundation (ETF), and the representatives of the Western Balkans launched the first stage of a process that will lead to the formulation of Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans in all Western Balkan economies by June 2022.
The launch 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 and the subsequent establishment of the EU/ILO Technical Assistance Facility on the Youth Guarantee during the summer.
Under the EU/ILO Technical Assistance Facility, the relevant authorities and stakeholders from the Western Balkans will receive support from the ILO and the ETF for designing, implementing, and enhancing Youth Guarantee schemes.
Mathieu Bousquet, of the European Commission’s 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.
Cesare 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. Mathieu Bousquet added: “I am happy to see that the work is progressing – some of you have already established the Multi-Stakeholder Group, nominated a department to serve as Youth Guarantee Coordinator, and involved multiple partners in the process. North Macedonia is already progressing with the implementation, also supported by the EU.” Daniela Zampini reminded everyone of the complexities related to the implementation of Youth Guarantee schemes, a significant innovation in the youth employment policy framework which in the past has challenged EU Member States on multiple fronts. “Bearing in mind the difficulties encountered by some of the EU Member States” commented Lluis Prats “this time we went a step further by ensuring that you would have access to the technical assistance of the ETF and the ILO, through the Technical Assistance Facility.
Under the EU/ILO Technical Assistance Facility, Western Balkan institutions have access to top-quality, demand-driven technical assistance and policy advice with a quick turn-around time. ILO/ETF expert missions mobilised at short notice can support stock-taking, mapping, document preparation, and analytical activities, as well as technical seminars, action-oriented research, and advanced training. The ILO and the ETF will also facilitate several peer-learning events as well as regional and country-level policy exchanges on specific technical dimensions of the Youth Guarantee. This policy instrument is a top priority within the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the region. As such, it can be a catalyst to materialise job opportunities for young people in the green, digital, care, and creative economies.