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J. Joksimović: Support to education reform remains one of the priorities of EU development assistance

February 25 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Support to education reform remains one of the priorities of EU development assistance

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has said today that education will be one of the most significant activities that the European Union (EU) will support through future funds, be it IPA or regional funds, noting that the line ministry is working on the preparation of a strategic document "Partnership for Development” on national priorities for development assistance by 2025, in which education has also been recognised as an important component in the development of human resources and of society as a whole.

At the third session of the Inter-Ministerial Council for Monitoring and Directing the Implementation of Education Reform, Joksimović has stressed that the Government of the Republic of Serbia is dedicated at the highest level to an active and effective implementation of sector budget support, which, as she has stated, did not cover only education, and which totalled EUR 80 million.

The Minister has recalled that, in September 2017, she signed, with then EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn, an agreement making a portion of IPA 2016 pre-accession funds available to Serbia, through a special sector budget support instrument, in the amount of EUR 27.4 million, of which EUR 24 million were to be disbursed in three tranches of EUR 8 million each.

“I think that we, as the Government, have implemented the target goals and indicators quite well. It is very important that the Inter-Ministerial Council’s mechanism of monitoring has its role to play, and it has played its role, because we have achieved most of the set goals, accompanied by payments and tranches to our budget,” Joksimović has stressed.

She has stressed that this is a specific type of support that is not provided to all EU candidate countries and that sector budget support, as an available mechanism speaks of the seriousness of institutions and the way European pre-accession funds are used in Serbia. 

"What lies ahead of us and what we need to complement, as an important and significant framework for fulfilling all the strategic documents at EU level, are strategic documents for achieving comprehensive education reform that will bring about everything that is expected of us - sustainable development, reduced rate of unemployment, new skills for new types of jobs, and everything that is trending in Europe and the world," Joksimović has said.

She has pointed to the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which, as the Minister has pointed out, have become part of the EU's political framework and, therefore, a part of Serbia's European integration process.

As she has stressed, one of the goals of the 2030 Agenda is to allow for equal access to education and equal quality of education, as well as to promote lifelong learning.

Joksimović has also pointed to the Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, which defines one of the five goals directly related to education - reducing the rate of early school leavers while increasing the percentage of youth with high education.

"Two more goals are indirectly related to education, and are aimed at increasing youth employment and reducing the percentage of the population living below the poverty threshold," Joksimović has said.

As the third strategic framework, which is also monitored through Chapter 26 that has been provisionally closed but is further worked on, she has cited the "Education and Training 2020" document, which has set out educational goals that the EU should achieve by the end of the year.

Among those goals, Joksimović has recalled, are encouraging lifelong learning, mobility, improving the quality and efficiency, promoting equity in education and encouraging innovations.

She has assessed that, by defining the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU has also defined the key principles of creating better living and working conditions, guaranteeing, as stressed by the Minister, the equal rights to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning, for the purpose of acquiring skills for inclusion in the labour market.

"These are concrete goals through strategic documents that exist at EU level, but also in a country that accedes and negotiates with the EU, such as Serbia, so we need to ensure the effective implementation of all these strategies," Joksimović has stressed.

Regarding the future goals and continuation of the sector budget support, Joksimović has said that this is a matter of negotiations that the Government of the Republic of Serbia will conduct with the EU, but at the same time has expressed her belief that IPA III instrument for the period 2021–2027 will "undoubtedly recognise education as one of the strategic activities that would be supported under these instruments."

She has added that Serbia is waiting to see the "advanced economic plan" for the Western Balkans, which will, with parts of the Green Agenda, be presented in May at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb, and has added that she expects that education will be an important element, as the key element of knowledge economy and transformation of the socio-economic way of achieving growth and progress in the Western Balkan countries. 

"We will see what are additional sources of funding or which existing sources have been strengthened and increased, which will later be the subject and framework based on which we will further negotiate with the EU on the sources of funding," Joksimović has said.

She has noted that the ministry headed by her is striving to coordinate and comprehensively summarise and analyse all the available sources of funding so that, as Joksimović has stressed, there would be no overlapping of the sources of funding.

"We will tighten control mechanisms to make effective use of the development assistance and grants we receive from different parties," Joksimović has said.

She has added that, out of the allocated EU funds in the total amount of EUR 27.4 million, so far EUR 14 million has been paid into the Serbian budget, and announced, as the most significant, that an application for the last tranche will be prepared by the end of the year, in relation to defined activities and goals achieved.

Joksimović has also said that the Ministry of European Integration is intensively working on the preparation of the strategic document "Partnership for Development" on national priorities for development aid until 2025, which, as she has stressed, represents the basis for achieving greater complementarity between the budget funds and the funds of development partners.

"We have sought to ensure that the most important public policies are funded through donor funding. They set out the envisaged measures and activities that, with future support, will lead to our main goal - the development of human capital and the achievement of social cohesion and what the EU calls 'full convergence'," Joksimović has said.

She has stressed that education is an important priority recognised in the framework of human resources development and social development, and a component based on which national priorities and plans are formed.

Source: Tanjug