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.
Regional social policy experts of The Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans network, with the support from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, prepared the Regional study Social Protection in the Western Balkans – Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been met by already weak social protection systems in the Western Balkans, while the broader social impacts are likely to be both severe and long-lasting. Some positive lessons can be drawn from the initial social policy response by regional governments, while at the same time a number of largely negative observations can be made, from which lessons can be learned.
The first part of the Study is a brief overview of the most important social protection measures taken during the COVID-19 crisis across the Western Balkans. The second part proposes short-term social protection priorities, including emergency measures to be implemented in the event of a second wave. The third part focuses on a broader agenda for transitioning to sustainable reform of social protection across the region, revisiting the document Future-Oriented Welfare State Policies in the Western Balkans produced by the Network in December 2019.
This Study has been authored by Professor Gordana Matković and Dr. Paul Stubbs with the support of Žarko Šunderić. It is based on a review of literature and, most importantly, information provided by members of The Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans network.
The study Social Protection in the Western Balkans – Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis can be downloaded here.
Perspectives on Child Poverty: Local Problems – Global Solutions
The speech given at the regional conference “Responsive social protection solutions: empowering children, families and communities” (Skopje, 14 October 2019)
Author: Paul Stubbs (The Institute of Economics, Zagreb)
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)