The European Commission representatives and Kosovo authorities held the Stabilisation and Association Agreement Sub-Committee on Innovation, Information Society and Social Policy. The meeting covered a broad range of topics from education, youth, social policies and employment, information society, telecommunication and audio-visual policies, cultural heritage.
On education, both parties agreed on the need to prioritise quality assurance at all levels, from pre-school to higher education, primarily by strengthening quality assurance bodies, such as the education inspectorate and quality coordinators for pre-university education, the Accreditation Agency for higher education and the National Qualifications Authority for the vocational education. In view of the circumstances with the COVID 19 pandemic, the importance of ensuring that all children have the ability to access education online, when circumstances require, was stressed. As regards children with special needs, the hiring of 100 additional assistant teachers was welcomed, though further progress is needed, also to identify and include these children in education.
The Commission positively assessed the appointment of the new Accreditation Agency Board through open competition as well as preparation of the new Law on the Agency.
On vocational education training (VET), both parties agreed on the need to better match skills with labour market needs, reviewing curricula and training profiles and redesigning the VET financing system.
For education, as well as for science and research, the Commission insisted on the need to gather and provide accurate data.
On research and innovation, the Commission welcomed the full association to Horizon Europe and stressed the importance of good research and innovation capacity to increase competitiveness, integration into the European Research Area and participation in Horizon Europe and Erasmus +.
On the protection of cultural heritage, the Commission encouraged Kosovo to ensure continued commitment to the Implementation and Monitoring Council and its work and to adopt the Law on Cultural Heritage. It welcomed the ratification of Creative Europe 2021-2027 association agreement and encouraged Kosovo to prepare for its participation in the Programme.
On employment, the Commission encouraged the authorities to finalise and adopt legislation covering employment, work life balance as well as health and safety at work, which have been under preparation for several years. The Employment Agency should increase the scope and coverage of its active labour market measures, to address high inactivity rates particularly among women. To address the high rates of youth that are not in employment, education or training, the authorities were encouraged to continue with the development of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan and start its implementation, as agreed in the (July 2021) Western Balkans 6 Ministerial meeting. The Commission also encouraged the authorities to help increase the capacity of social partners, especially trade unions in the private sector, and encourage them to conclude collective agreements while respecting their autonomy.
On social inclusion and social protection, the authorities were encouraged to make swift progress in two areas: moving forward with the design of the new means-tested Social Assistance Scheme, replacing categorised social benefits, and ensuring funding for delivery of social services by municipalities, while equipping them with necessary financial resources.
On information society, the Commission noted that the Kosovo Digital Agenda 2030 is being finalised. The Commission welcomed the adoption of the Law on Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions, thereby aligning Kosovo’s legislation with the relevant EU (eIDAS) Regulation. The Commission also commended Kosovo for having completed alignment with the Broadband Cost Reduction Regulation. Kosovo agreed to increase efforts to align with and implement the NIS (Security of Network and Information Systems) Directive as well as to implement the EU 5G toolbox. Commitments made during the 2021 Western Balkans Digital Summit related to the Memoranda of Understanding on interoperable Western Balkans and Free Flow of Data in the Western Balkans region are also being implemented and full alignment with the EU Electronic Communications Code will be achieved in 2023.
On audiovisual policies, in particular the digital switchover, where progress is still needed, the Commission encouraged the Independent Media Commission to find ways to free up frequencies during the coming year. The Commission also encouraged Kosovo to find a sustainable financing solution for the public broadcaster, in line with the EU acquis. The Commission noted the transparent selection process of the board members for the public broadcaster as well as the ones for the Independent Media Commission. The Commission also encouraged Kosovo to align with the Audio-Visual and Media Service Directive, which would allow the country to participate in the MEDIA strand of the Creative Europe Programme.
The meeting was co-chaired by the Office of the Prime Minister and the European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, with the participation of experts from other directorates general and ministries.
- The Stabilisation and Association Agreement is the framework for the EU and the Kosovo administration to regularly discuss technical and policy issues in relation to the European agenda.
- SAA Committee and Sub-Committee meetings are co-chaired by the European Commission and Kosovo. Each meeting results in jointly agreed follow-up actions to be taken by the Kosovo authorities.
- There are seven areas covered through sectorial meetings of sub-Committees, on Justice, Freedom and Security; Innovation, Information Society, Social Policy, Education and Culture; Trade, Industry, Customs and Taxation; Internal Market, Competition, Consumer and Health Protection; Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Food Safety; Transport, Environment, Energy, Regional Development; Economic and Financial Issues, Statistics.
- Each sub-Committee meeting monitors and accompanies Kosovo’s delivery on reforms and identifies how the EU can assist in this process. The meetings also provide direct input into the European Commission’s annual reports.