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South East Europe 2030 Strategy South East Europe (SEE) 2030 Strategy consultation meetings organized by TEPAV and ELIAMEP were held online on 21 and 25 May.
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27/05/2021 - Viewed 185 times

 

The Regional Stakeholders Seminars were held virtually on 21st and 25th of May with the initiative of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), and The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) in order to enhance outreach to civil society and ensure their contribution to the RCC’s South East Europe (SEE) 2030 Strategy draft.

Co-hosted by TEPAV and ELIAMEP, the purpose of the seminars was to develop regional policies and finalize the 2030 Strategy document prepared by the RCC, which is tasked with drafting a SEE 2030 Strategy using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) methodology. The two events brought together civil society organizations, academics, think-tanks, private sector representatives, and other stakeholders from 13 South East European countries to consult and exchange ideas on the SEE 2030 Strategy.

The first day of the event commenced with the opening speeches of RCC, ELIAMEP, and TEPAV representatives.

RCC Deputy Secretary General Tanya Miscevic began by stating that the SEE 2030 Strategy was prepared in line with the UN SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. Miscevic emphasized that the ultimate goal of the SEE 2030 Strategy is to reach regionally sustainable economic growth to reduce poverty and inequalities. Miscevic highlighted the importance of empowering women in all sectors, improving social inclusion, and addressing the trend of depopulation in the region by enhancing the quality of life for all its citizens. Underlining that the acceleration of  green and digital transition can only be achieved through regionally owned political processes that would not disrupt competitiveness or private sector development, Miscevic concluded her speech by stating that as RCC, they have explored ways to achieve this transition in the SEE 2030 Strategy.

Ioannis Armakolas, Head of Southeast Europe Programme at ELIAMEP, began his speech by emphasizing that the SEE region is at a critical juncture due to various geopolitical and economic difficulties. Stating that the European Union (EU) integration process has begun to lose its appeal, Armakolas said bilateral relations, which have periodically constituted an obstacle to regional cooperation initiatives aimed at a better future, are again on the regional agenda. Underlining that an inclusive approach should be put into practice if a sustainable development in the SEE region wants to be achieved, Armakolas concluded by stating that current and future studies carried-out by the RCC in the region were of the essence.

Güven Sak, TEPAV Program Director, started by stating that there is significant untapped potential in the region, and added that such seminars organized by the RCC stimulate policy research institutions in the region and increase the bandwidth of political communication between SEE economies in a positive manner. Pointing-out that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the context of global discussions, Sak underlined that as the SEE economies move towards a post-pandemic era, the region needs to adjust its whole transformation agenda to new realities while also looking at actionable policy interventions. Sak emphasized that the SEE economies should aim for a holistic agenda and concluded by reminding that the 13 economies may need to be more flexible in their approach to the region in the upcoming period.

Following the opening speeches, Expert Minister Counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece Eleni Nikolaidou, Senior Economist for Western Balkans Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment at the World Bank Sanja Madzarevic-Sujster, Director and Principal Advisor at the Sustainable Development and Gender Unit in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Monika Linn, and Senior Health Financing Specialist at the World Health Organization (WHO) Sara Thomson delivered short presentations to inform participants about the current situation in the SEE region.

Eleni Nikolaidou began her presentation by stating that the RCC is an effective tool for enhancing cooperation in the region, boosting overall development, and implementing policies as well as practical measures. In her presentation, Nikolaidou stated that the primary goal of Greece, which will take over the term presidency of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) for a year as of July 1, 2021, is to encourage regional cooperation and strengthen dialogue in the region. She concluded by expressing Greece’s full commitment to the 2030 Strategy.

World Bank Economist Sanja Madzarevic-Sujster started by stating that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the deepest recession in recent history, despite massive government support worldwide. Pointing out that urgent action should be taken to prevent the persistence of the adverse effects of the pandemic, Madzarevic-Sujster stated that the expectations were for economies to recover back to pre-pandemic growth levels in 2021 but added that it will take another 15-20 months. Madzarevic-Sujster concluded by stating that rebuilding fiscal sustainability is only possible with green, resilient, and inclusive development.

Monika Linn, one of the directors of UNECE, described the COVID-19 outbreak as a setback for SDG implementation worldwide. Linn stated that it is still possible to achieve targets related to extreme poverty, malnutrition, access to basic services, and adequate housing yet stressed that targets to reduce nationally defined and multi-dimensional poverty are unlikely to be achieved. Stressing the necessity of investing in a people-centered and gender-responsive health and social protection systems to combat poverty and inequality, Linn concluded her remarks by stating that investment and innovation in data are crucial to achieving SDGs, recovery efforts, and crisis responses.

WHO expert Sara Thomson began by pointing out that COVID-19 is likely to be a source of pressure on health budgets in the year ahead and therefore pose a threat to less resilient health systems where public spending is low and out-of-pocket payments are high. Thomson noted that well-designed public policy could mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 and increase the resilience of health systems. Emphasizing that economic recovery cannot be achieved without ensuring access to health services, Thomson underlined that austerity is not an option as there is no economic recovery without health security, which in turn requires political will, better tax systems, and more international solidarity.

On the second day of the event, the SEE 2030 Strategy was discussed in four sub-sessions held simultaneously with the participation of experts in their fields. Approximately 60 participants contributed directly to the SEE 2030 Strategy in the sub-sessions of (1) Access to health services and their quality in the SEE Region; (2) Access to education and its quality in the SEE Region; (3) Access to environment/sanitation services at a household level in the SEE Region, and (4) Equal access to justice in the SEE Region. The seminar was concluded with each moderator sharing their sub-session break-out room discussion outputs in the plenary session with all the participants.

 

Click here for SEE 2030 Coordinator Umut Ergezer’s presentation.

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