Discussion with Commissioner Várhelyi about the social dimension in the Western BalkansPosted on |
On 29 March, SAM.I. president Knut Fleckenstein met with Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement to discuss the social dimension of the EU accession process and more specifically the Social Dimension Initiative (SDI) which had been started by SAM.I. member Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) in 2018.
The social dimension does not play a significant role during the EU accession process, which leads to a lack of governmental support for or attention to social initiatives in the candidate countries. Civil Society, therefore, plays an even more crucial role for offering social services and addressing social problems in these countries. Having identified this challenge, the Social Dimension Initiative focuses on capacity building of local NGOs and municipalities in the Western Balkans, as well as on raising the visibility and awareness of EU added-value among the general population and especially the most vulnerable groups.
All Ministers for Social Welfare from the six Western Balkan countries support the SDI and have signed a joint declaration in 2018, a first of its kind. Over the course of the initiative, almost 200 projects have been locally developed (3 projects per participating 65 municipalities), but have been mostly halted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi expressed great interest in and support for the initiative and emphasized the need to set up projects which have Roma and Youth/Children as the target group. Especially the (re)integration of Roma into the labour market contains large potential for the region. In addition, being Hungarian, Commissioner Varhelyi pointed out the important role of SAM.I. member Országos Szamaritánus Társaság Szövetsége (USB, Hungary), who provides many social services in Hungary and is well-known for being the first organization to have had the equipment enabling the medical transport of premature babies.
Led by the ASB, and together with the support of the EU and our members in the region, SAM.I. will continue to promote the restart of this important initiative and the implementation of the developed projects.