Social cohesion in the Western Balkan economies is under constant risk. A weak social welfare state and the persistent and challenging economic situation create an unstable environment that could compromise and jeopardise the sustainable development of the Western Balkan societies.
A group of Western Balkan think-tank organisations and researchers working on the welfare state issues have initiated development of a Regional platform with the aim to engage the foremost researchers, political, business and other leaders of society to shape a regional social welfare state agenda, thus contributing to improving the social dimension of the European Integration in the Western Balkans. The initiative intends to create added value through influencing existing processes which promote a sustainable reform agenda in the Western Balkan (such as economic governance and Economic Reform Programme, EU negotiation process, Employment and Social Reform Programmes, etc.). One of the key outputs and tools of influence is initiating and holding of an annual event to discuss the Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans (informally named the Social Davos of the Western Balkans).
As a move forward, the Position Paper on the Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans has been prepared. The study provides an overview against the key welfare state indicators and reviews challenges that the social welfare state faces globally. Specifically, the study focuses on the challenges which are additionaly linked to Western Balkans economies and also defines some of the key strategies and options in dealing with these challenges that need to be tackled, discussed and agreed.
This position paper is supported by PERFORM, a project of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) implemented by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and University of Fribourg.
The Western Balkans Network The Future of the Welfare State, utilising the Open Method of Coordination as a tool and the EU Pillar for Social Rights as a relevant policy framework, initiates coordination in education, social protection and social inclusion in the Western Balkans. We have agreed the Future of the Welfare State Platform which represents a common minimum of a Regional Social Protection Floor and contains a basket of essential services and benefits.
Elements of the Future of the Welfare State Platform have been formulated based on the position paper The Welfare State in the Western Balkans – Challenges and Options and discussions held during the Belgrade Flagship Conference (2018) and the Social Policy Lab (Montenegro, 2019). Also, the EU Pillar for Social Rights’ principles, rights and indicators have been used in formulating the common Regional Social Protection Floor.
Instead of a fully developed platform, a list of elements is offered that might be further developed, but that also, even as stand-alone items, would provide better quality of Western Balkan welfare states and more protection for greater numbers of people. Some elements contain precise requirements and indicators, some indicate very concrete measures, some are just sketched and some are labelled as important, but need additional evidence based on good research.
Welfare states need to be commensurate with, and contribute to, social cohesion and economic development. Used wisely, welfare expenditures are a highly effective form of social investment improving well-being and equity.
Please read the text of the Platform here.
Reforming Welfare Assemblages in Semi-Peripheral Spaces: understanding ‘drivers of inertia’ in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia
Authors: Paul Stubbs (The Institute of Economics, Zagreb) and Siniša Zrinščak (Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb)