Friends of South East Europe
The Friends of South East Europe (SEE) is an informal group of representatives from the OECD Member States that have a special interest in - or relations with South East Europe. It convenes regularly to provide an update on the OECD SEE Regional Programme’s activities and planned work, to discuss its strategic priorities as well as to explore closer co-ordination with OECD Member States. The group is currently chaired by Ambassador László Turóczy of the Permanent Delegation of Hungary to the OECD and UNESCO.
Fall 2022 Meeting
The second Friends of SEE meeting of the year was held on November 30th. Opened jointly by Ambassador Turóczy, Permanent Delegation of Hungary to the OECD and UNESCO and Mr. Andreas Schaal, Director of the Global Relations and Co-operation Directorate, the meeting was attended by more than 40 participants from OECD member states and accession countries, the European Commission and the OECD Global Relations and Cooperation Directorate.
Mr. Mathieu Bousquet, Acting Director at the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, European Commission joined the meeting as guest speaker. He updated the participants on the Western Balkans’ EU integration and the joint EU-OECD support to their economic policy. He underlined that enlargement was back on the EU agenda, citing the beginning of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and the Commission’s recommendation to grant EU candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina. He added that evidence-based policy guidance by the OECD would be beneficial and needed for the region’s economies during the accession process.
The OECD team then presented the Programme’s recent achievements and upcoming work. The start of the new assessment cycle of the Competitiveness Outlook was announced, as well as the new work stream on the design and implementation of circular economy roadmaps for the Western Balkans. The team also provided a brief overview of the economic impact of the Russian aggression against Ukraine in SEE. Finally, the key findings of the Programme’s recent flagship report SME Policy Index 2022: Western Balkans and Turkey were shared with the participants.
The participants underscored the OECD SEE Regional Programme’s remarkable success and impact in bringing the region’s economies closer to OECD standards and helping them integrate with the EU. They expressed their contentment on the Programme’s growing focus and scaled-up activities on facilitating the green and digital transition in SEE.
The meeting was followed by the signing ceremony of the EU grant to launch a four-year project with the OECD. Building on the longstanding OECD-EU co-operation, the OECD will extend its support to align policies in SEE with OECD, EU and international best practices, and to facilitate competitive, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
- OECD-EU joint project launch
- Event photos (via Flickr)
Spring 2022 Meeting
The first Friends of SEE meeting of 2022, chaired by Ambassador László Turóczy of the Permanent Delegation of Hungary to the OECD and UNESCO, was held on April 20th. It was the first in-person meeting since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 participants from 28 OECD member states, the European Commission and the OECD Global Relations and Co-operation Directorate were present.
The meeting focused on the OECD SEE Regional Programme’s latest work on labour migration and the preparation of the High-Level Conference on SEE held in May 2022. The OECD team highlighted that the Western Balkans have been suffering from chronically high levels of emigration and brain drain. About one-fifth of the population born in the Western Balkans lives abroad, and one-third of people living in the region consider emigration. The key findings of the report Labour Migration in the Western Balkans were then summarised, outlining the key recommendations on maximising development benefits from emigration and on alleviating its causes.
Mr. Francisco Gaztelu Mezquiriz, Head of Unit for Migration Assistance to Neighbouring Countries, DG NEAR, European Commission, joined the meeting as special guest. He shared the EU’s approach towards migration policies as well as its support to the Western Balkans. He stated that the EU has so far invested around EUR 500 million in improving migration management in the Western Balkans and plans to have new initiatives, focusing on knowledge transfer and unlocking the diasporas’ potential across the region.
The participants discussed that reducing brain drain and leveraging diasporas for socio-economic development are important policy priorities for the region. OECD member states would be well-placed to share their own experiences and good practices, as many of them have grappled with large emigration in the past.
Meetings in 2021
Fall 2021 (virtual)
Spring 2021 (virtual)