[Event Review] Western Balkans Steering Platforms Meeting on Culture, Education and Training & Research and Innovation (Skopje, 3-5 June 2024)

The Western Balkans Steering Platforms (SP) on Education and Training; Research and Innovation as well as Culture held their meetings in Skopje, North Macedonia, from 3-5 June 2024.

The event brought together senior government officials and key stakeholders from the European Commission, Western Balkan economies, and other relevant organisations to discuss the latest developments and priorities in these critical areas for the region’s future growth and prosperity.

The meeting started with sessions of the Western Balkans Steering Platform on Culture, followed by Education and Training, where participants discussed the latest updates and progress on the Western Balkans Agenda. Sessions were co-chaired by the European Commission, North Macedonia on behalf of the Western Balkans and as the local host of the meeting, and Hungary, the incoming EU Council Presidency.

Discussions centred around the European Commission’s reports on the latest developments as well as updates from the Steering Platform members on their respective economies’ progress in these areas of Education and Training, and Culture.

On the second day, the platforms held sessions to delve deeper into Research and Innovation specific topics: The Western Balkans Agenda was featured, and updates were provided by stakeholders such as the European Training Foundation, the Regional Cooperation Council, COST, Eureka and other Steering Platform members from the Western Balkans and EU Member States.

The meeting of the Steering Platforms also included a joint session dedicated to the preparation of the upcoming Ministerial Meeting in Skopje in autumn 2024, an important milestone in the implementation of the Western Balkans Agenda. The Ministerial event will celebrate the achievements and progress made in innovation, research, education, culture, youth, and sport, as well as set the path for the continuation of the agenda’s successful implementation and the further integration of the region into relevant European efforts.

The Research and Innovation Steering Platform meeting also included a workshop on Western Balkans European Research Area (ERA) Reporting, where participants discussed the latest reports and monitoring efforts. This workshop was particularly timely, as the WB ERA reports have been published together with those for the EU Member States recently. Furthermore, the European Commission presented on the Horizon Europe efforts to valorise research and innovation results and protect intellectual property rights.

The next SP meeting (online) is scheduled for 4 September, which will finalise preparations for the Ministerial Meeting. This meeting will also be facilitated by the POLICY ANSWERS project, which has been instrumental in supporting the platforms’ work throughout the process.

The meeting in Skopje highlighted the continued commitment of the European Commission and the Western Balkans to advancing culture, education, training, research and innovation in the region. By working together and sharing best practices and experiences, the participants demonstrated their dedication to creating a brighter future for the region.

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