EUSDR PA9 | 4th International Stakeholder Conference - 5th October 2016 - Investing in People and Skills in the Danube Region: Towards a New Dynamic for Socio-Economic Development
The 4th International Stakeholder Conference “Investing in People and Skills in the Danube Region: Towards a New Dynamic for Socio-Economic Development” of PA9 took place on 5th October 2016 in Vienna. It was hosted by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection and was organised with technical assistance funding received from the European Union.
The 4th Stakeholder Conference aimed at discussing current European growth and development policies, how effective approaches to skills and competences impact their success and what challenges they face with regard to education and training, labour market and civil society participation. Workshops on relevant topics such as quality and efficiency of education and training, educational outcomes, labour market policies and social inclusion were held to exchange current policies and identify requirements and needs to face future challenges and developments. In this context participants were invited to find new opportunities for wider cooperation and closer collaboration. Furthermore, information on funding opportunities was provided by experts and lead partners throughout the conference.
Stakeholders from thirteen of fourteen Danube Region countries followed the invitation, 122 had registered and about 110 were actually present at the event. The following countries were represented (by number of registrations): EU Member States: Austria (54), Bulgaria (4), Croatia (4), Czech Republic (3), Germany (5), Hungary (6), Romania (8), Slovak Republic (6) and Slovenia (2), Accession Countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina (2), Montenegro (4) and Serbia (14), Neighbourhood Countries: Moldova (5) and Ukraine (0), International Organisations: European Commission and Danube Strategy Point (3), European Training Foundation (1), EUSBSR/Sweden (1). Participants’ working background is in ministries or other government bodies, educational institutions, NGOs, social partners or transnational bodies.
Highlights from the conference
Alois Stöger, Austrian Federal Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection emphasised the importance of communication and cooperation in an area incorporating 14 countries and 120 million residents. He is grateful for 5 years of fruitful cooperation with the Austrian Ministry of Education and the Moldavian Ministries, Partners and all other stakeholders. In spite of the recent crisis in Europe, it will be necessary to regain trust in politics, to strengthen solidarity and the social dimension to prevent Europe from the influence of right wing populists. The EU should not be regarded merely as economic union, but as social union.
Klaus Körner: Policy Officer at the European Commission in the Directorate for Education and Culture In his statement, he related the question of the added value of EUSDR as a macro-regional process for European cooperation in Education and Training to the five Europe 2020 targets (increase employment rate, invest in research and development, turn to green energy, raise education, reduce drop-out rates and decrease number at risk of poverty and social exclusion). While there is no doubt about the value of the numerous projects that have been carried out incorporated in the EUSDR, the challenge on how to get from projects to sustainability and to generate new and significant results remains. He encouraged stakeholders to give feedback to the EC about their needs and to bring their ideas to the fore. He mentioned peer learning activities in different fields, launched to provide space for exchange of good practice and experience. Körner concluded, that regarding the main challenges on the skills agenda as well as the migration agenda it will perhaps be necessary to review the definition of “key competences” (from 2006) and to put more emphasis on civic competences rather than on technical skills.
Anders Bergström, Policy Area Coordinator PA Education/Horizontal Action Coordinator HA Capacity (both within the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSBSR) The Baltic Sea Strategy was launched in 2009 as the first macro-regional strategy in Europe. It primarily affects eight Member States of the EU in the region (Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, counting 85 million inhabitants), but also non-EU countries are involved in Baltic Sea Region Cooperation, mostly Norway and Russia, as well as Iceland and Belarus. Apart from existing longer and being smaller, the EUSBSR shares some of the challenges and targets with the EUSDR. At present, refugees are a priority in primarily Finland, Germany and Sweden e. g., migration having been an issue for long, now the focus is on asylum seekers, their education and employability. Other priorities are the ageing population and lifelong learning, VET and work-based learning, excellence and entrepreneurship are key issues to be addressed in different education systems. Alignment of funding is a further key issue and at present networks exist for Managing Authorities in ESF, ERDF and EAFRD in the region. The tendency in the EUSBSR is less focus on projects but more on development processes gathering stakeholders in so called flagships. The flagships focus on societal challenges with thematic working groups where stakeholders in multilevel governance are working together, across borders. Projects are parts of the flagships concentrating resources for development and testing of new methods. Work on a local and regional levels are important as well as the integrated and coordinated governance of the Baltic Sea region. Success of the strategy also depends on the commitment by regional and local authorities and political actors in the respective countries.
Documents related to the conference under the title “Investing in People and Skills in the Danube Region: Towards a New Dynamic for Socio-Economic Development” are availiable on the website.
Photos of the conference are availiable here
Report from the conference in Vienna