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Building-up knowledge based society in the SEE: a fiction or window of opportunity through the EU accession?

November 2010 | #05

by: Visnja Samardzija
pp: 32
ISSN: 2038-632X

Paper's frontpage
November 2010 | #05

Abstract

The EU has undertaken strong commitment towards the South-East Europe (SEE) within the overall strategy for the region. Three sets of interlinked issues related to the SEE are on the European agenda: stabilisation, reforms and the EU integration. Renewed consensus over enlargement was achieved ("3Cs") with commitment to the European perspective of the region, while the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty opened the door for further EU enlargement. Major challenges are ahead, such as better governance, state building issues, efficient judiciary and public administration, fight against crime and corruption, lowering unemployment, building infrastructure, etc. However, despite obstacles most countries of the region are progressing steadily towards the EU membership.
 
Together with the challenges posed by globalisation and world economic crisis, the accession to the EU strengthens the need to foster human resources development in the SEE countries of with the aim to raise their competitiveness. It particularly relates to strengthening education, training, research and innovation policies through reforms, making preconditions for stronger investment in R&D, exchange of experiences and good practices as well as to regional cooperation within the knowledge triangle areas (education, research, innovation). Building-up a knowledge-based society is essential for the region and it relies on a human capacities development. There is a need to improve the scientific infrastructure, increase mobility among academics, attract experts from abroad and reduce the brain-drain. Progress in these areas should help the region to increase its' competitiveness, achieve sustainable economic and social development and facilitate the EU integration.
 
The EU accession is the most important driving force to implement reforms, foster economic and political changes in the countries of the region. Therefore the needed progress in human resources development, education and research should be stronger incorporated into the EU enlargements instruments and linked to the EU Lisbon strategy goals which consider the mentioned areas as basic priorities. In spite of the weaknesses in implementation, Lisbon strategy could be perceived as a framework for the reforms in the SEE countries at macro, micro and employment level. Additionally, there is a need for further fostering regional cooperation in the mentioned areas, prioritising the Lisbon Strategy goals, adopting and implementing the instruments for speeding up the reforms. Such cooperation could contribute to better preparation and coordination of the reforms.
 
The paper focuses on the SEE countries while some comparisons are made with the EU member states and Turkey. It tries to find out the answer how to foster the relevant national policies through reforms, exchange of experiences, good practices and regional cooperation in human resource development and building the knowledge triangle. It aims to identify main strengths and weaknesses, starting from the comparative analyses of the achieved development and key problems. Based on such analyses, the paper draws up some policy recommendations that might help the countries of the region in developing relevant policies.
 
The paper is based on the available secondary data sources (such as Eurostat) and results of some surveys undertaken within this area (World Bank, national surveys). However, it should be underlined that there is a serious lack of reliable comparative data for the SEE countries in the areas of knowledge triangle which makes the comparative analyses more difficult. Therefore the available data from some executive surveys and regional databases were also taken into consideration (World Economic Forum).
 
The Western Balkan countries are significantly exposed to the effects of global crisis because most of them are highly indebted abroad, posses insufficient hard currency reserves and experience high balance of payments deficits. Although the first wave of financial crisis (a fall in prices of new financial instruments) was not critical for them, the second wave in the form of credit crunch, collapse of exports and disruption of the inflow of remittances has significant impact. As a result, the economic activity is significantly slowing down in the region, regardless of relative satisfactory tourist season in some of countries in 2009. The negative economic developments will slow down the process of resolving conflicts in the region related to bloody dissolution of former SFR Yugoslavia. Inclusion of the elements of solidarism to their economic systems and policies could ease the catching-up of the region in the process of its reintegration to the developed Europe.

 

Keywords

knowledge triangle, competitiveness, EU enlargement, Lisbon strategy, R&D, innovation, research, education

Table of contents

 Abstract
1 - The EU enlargement facing new challenges
2 - The Lisbon strategy and attempts towards the knowledge based society in the SEE
2.1 - The Knowledge triangle and competitiveness
2.2 - Relevance of Lisbon strategy goals for the SEE
2.3 - Research and innovation
2.4 - Education
3 - Conclusions
4 - Tables
Literature

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