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The Western Balkan Six – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – pledged to increase their support for research, innovation, education, training and culture at the Ministerial Meeting of the Western Balkans Platforms on Education and Training & Research and Innovation with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and top European Commission officials. They expressed their firm backing for the proposed ‘Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’, a positive and forward-looking vision for all.
Ministers of research, innovation, education and culture from the Western Balkans took part in the meeting where they exchanged views and experiences. All of them committed to increasing their support for these sectors, and backed the various EU programmes aimed at improving cross-border cooperation in these fields.
Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said the ”Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’ should provide opportunities to students, researchers, innovators and cultural operators so that they access new markets, become more competitive and build sustainable prosperity.”
“A deep innovation agenda will be essential for enhancing human capital development as well as the development of a sustainable innovation ecosystem,” she said. “Our ambition is to promote inclusive and high-quality education and training systems, with a view to offering new opportunities for young people in the regions.”
Commissioner Gabriel emphasized that investments in education, innovation and research would unlock talents in the region, which would be invaluable for the green and digital transitions across the whole of Europe. “This innovation agenda aims to bring the Western Balkans closer to the European Union, and the young generation will be the focus of our work. We really need to provide them support and tell them we can work together to realize their ideas, their projects and their potential,” she further added. “All the tools are at our disposal to make our common innovation a success story. Let’s join forces and work on it.”
Thomas Rachel, Germany’s Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research – representing the EU Council Presidency – said the coronavirus crisis had shown how important investments in research, innovation and technology are.
“No economy can solve the major challenges of our time on its own. We need European and international cooperation on science and research in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic and man-made climate change,” he said. He stressed that researchers from the Western Balkans are already well integrated into the European research community, and he said that next year the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research will provide funding for 14 projects with all six Western Balkans partners.
The Ministerial meeting is a forum of exchange between Western Balkans ministers, the European Commission and EU Member States. It gathers ministers responsible for Innovation, Research, Education and Culture from the Western Balkans.
The Western Balkan partners have increased their participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ in recent years, and are currently aiming at associating with Horizon Europe. They also all have strong cooperation potential in research and innovation systems. This is crucial, as the integration of the Western Balkans research and innovation frameworks into the European Research Area is important step forward on their European path.