The European Commission representatives and Kosovo authorities held the Stabilisation and Association Agreement Sub-Committee on Innovation, Information Society and Social Policy on 8th February 2019 in Brussels.
The meeting covered a broad range of topics from education, social policies and employment, telecommunication and audio-visual policies, cultural heritage. The discussion was held in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), which entered into force in April 2016, according to a press release distributed to media by the EU Office in Kosovo. In all areas, the Commission and Kosovo agreed on the importance of implementing the relevant European Reform Agenda and Economic Reform Program priorities as well as the recommendations from the last Commission’s Report on Kosovo and previous sub-Committee recommendations. On education, the Commission recalled the need to prioritise quality assurance at all levels, from pre-school to higher education. This could primarily be achieved by strengthening quality assurance bodies, namely education inspectorate and quality coordinators for pre-university education, Accreditation Agency for higher education and the National Qualifications Authority for the vocational education, but also by properly funding education institutions, completing curriculum reform with new, better quality textbooks and providing new infrastructure for early education. The Commission positively assessed the appointment of the new Accreditation Agency Board through open competition and encourage the authorities to respect their independence. The authorities were encouraged to have the Law on Higher Education adopted by the Assembly, in line with the recommendations provided through the joint EU-Council of Europe Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey, as well as the law on pre-school education. The Commission noted that the authorities are providing a limited number of assistant teachers for children with special needs, but the access to quality education as well as those from minority communities needs to be improved.
Overall for education, but also for science and research, the Commission urged Kosovo to provide accurate data, including for the Education and Training 2020 indicators.
On research and innovation, the Commission stressed the importance of good research and innovation capacity to increase competitiveness, integration into the European Research Area and participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus +, including by appointing focal points for each of the programmes. On the protection of cultural heritage, the Commission stressed that Kosovo should ensure continued commitment to the Implementation and Monitoring Council and its work.
On employment, the Commission took stock on the active labour market measures implemented by the Agency for Employment, particularly those targeting youth and women. The parties again agreed that greater efforts are needed to enforce the law on labour and legislation on health and safety at work, primarily by targeting inspections in higher risk sectors and by increasing the low number of labour inspectors. The parties also discussed the implementation of social dialogue in Kosovo.
On information society, Kosovo agreed to address resource needs, particularly in the area of Cyber Security, by properly staffing the Computer Emergency Response Team. Kosovo agreed to increase efforts to align with and implement the NIS (Security of Network and Information Systems) Directive as well as transposition of the eIDAS (Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions in the Internal Market) Regulation.
On audiovisual policies, in particular the digital switchover, the Commission regretted the lack of progress and 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 meeting was co-chaired by the Ministry for European Integration 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.
• SA 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. The conclusions from the meetings are available on the website of the EU Office in Kosovo (https://eeas.europa.eu/delegat... and www. https://www.mei-ks.net.). 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. Two Special Groups cover the reform of the public administration and normalisation of relations with Serbia.
• 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.