Education is the backbone of a competitive workforce and economy. That’s why investing in education and training is at the heart of EU cooperation with its Western Balkan partners.
The EU is behind many initiatives to improve the skills base and support quality education in the Western Balkans.
Ultimately, the goal is to improve future opportunities for youth and make the region an attractive place for young people to live, work and realise their ambitions.
Across the Western Balkans, young people face many challenges, from high levels of unemployment and a lack of decent jobs, to limited mobility, skills mismatches and cumbersome recognition of professional qualifications.
Greater efforts are needed to address persistent youth unemployment, close the skills gap, and harness all the talent in the region.
In cooperation with Western Balkan partners, the EU invests in many programmes dedicated to enhancing education and vocational training, entrepreneurship, and all sorts of exchange programmes for skills, volunteering and personal development.
This includes Erasmus+ – the EU’s programme to support education, training, mobility and personal and professional development in Europe and beyond. The programme is open to participants from the Western Balkans. Thousands of young people and teaching staff in the region have already availed of the opportunities, and gained new skills by training or studying abroad.
Through policy dialogue, the EU exchanges best practice and supports Western Balkan partners to improve their education and training systems. This is complemented by work of the European Training Foundation that cooperates with partners in the region to modernise qualification systems, monitor progress of reforms, and improve the quality of learning processes and provision.
Promoting education opportunities is at the heart of the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans (EIP). Adopted in 2020, this substantial investment package is providing a major stimulus to the region with €9 billion in EU grants and guarantees that are set to leverage €20 billion in favourable loans.
This will be the vehicle for turning ambition into action – with extensive investment for enhancing education and training opportunities, improving teaching quality, encouraging mobility, and ensuring that programmes reflect the needs of the labour market.
Support will centre on:
Skills investment – Through ongoing schemes like Erasmus+ with enhanced opportunities for academic mobility and capacity building, including in the vocational education and training sector (VET) sector. Young people in the region can also take part in volunteering exchanges and cooperation initiatives under the European Solidarity Corps.
Youth Guarantee – Putting in place a Youth Guarantee scheme in line with the tried and tested EU Youth Guarantee. This seeks to guarantee that all young people under 29 years old in the region have a chance to work, continue education or undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
Reforming education policies – Developing and monitoring evidence-based policies and reforms to address the main challenges of the education systems in terms of governance, financing, quality and equality. The goal is to adapt the education systems to the digital transformation and needs of knowledge-based economies.
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