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EU – Western Balkans Ministerial Meeting On Employment And Social Affairs

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A meeting of the EU-Western Balkans Minister for Labor and Social Policy was held within the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council.

With support from the European Union, the Western Balkans will enhance labour market integration of young people. At a meeting with their EU counterparts today in Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia, the Ministers and Representatives of the Western Balkans committed to gradually establish, implement and enhance Youth Guarantee schemes.

Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “Youth unemployment is a concern both in the EU and in the Western Balkans, and we must continue pushing for strong policy measures to help our young people enter the labour market. I am pleased that the Ministers and Representatives of the Western Balkans have committed to designing and implementing Youth Guarantee schemes based on the EU model. Young people are looking to us for solutions and we have to deliver. I wish our partners from the Western Balkans every success.”

“The Youth Guarantee has been a useful tool for facilitating the labour market integration of young people in the EU. In Slovenia, we have been effectively implementing it since 2014. The established implementation brings good results, most notably, achieving the rate of young people not in employment, education or training below the EU average. The contribution from the European Social Fund is essential in delivering these results and the EU is ready to provide support to the Western Balkans through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to this aim”, said Janez Cigler Kralj, Slovenian Minister of labour, family, social affairs and equal opportunities.

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and was organised in cooperation with the European Commission. The participants discussed youth employment, which is a shared challenge for the EU-27 and the Western Balkans. Across Europe, young people have been severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, which has significantly disrupted their participation in the labour market as well as their education and training plans. The participants also exchanged their views on the structural challenges faced by young people in the labour market, notably in the context of the green and digital transitions.

To address these challenges, they agreed that it is critical that both the EU and the Western Balkans work together in close partnership. As regards priority responses that would help promote youth employment, they concurred that the European Pillar of Social Rights provides the guiding principles for action, notably that young people have the right to continued education, apprenticeship, traineeship or a job offer of good standing within 4 months of becoming unemployed or leaving education. The EU Youth Guarantee has proven to be an effective scheme for tackling youth unemployment and inactivity.

In this context, the Ministers and the Representatives of the Western Balkans responsible for employment endorsed a Declaration on ensuring sustainable labour market integration of young people, with concrete steps to gradually establish, implement and enhance, respectively, Youth Guarantee schemes. While domestic resources need to be allocated for the implementation of the scheme, the European Union will support financially its deployment as a flagship initiative under the Economic and Investment Plan for Western Balkans. “

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