This year we commemorate the 17th anniversary of the foundations for the ongoing relations between the European Union and the economies of the Western Balkans laid down by the European Council, commonly known as the conclusions from the EU-Western Balkans Summit held on 21 June 2003 in Thessaloniki. A joint Declaration was adopted at the Summit that, among other things, welcomed the endorsement of the Thessaloniki agenda for the Western Balkans.
In that period, the greatest challenge for the Western Balkans was to alleviate the exclusionary nationalistic and deteriorating political forces. Today, policies across the region are consolidated in favour of integration into the European Union. Obviously, numerous challenges remain, such as the regional cooperation and weak Western Balkans’ institutional capacities.
Fostering the stability and prosperity of the region remains a key priority for the EU, especially taking into account the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic which is hitting hard the Western Balkan societies and economies. As outlined in the European Commission priorities, green transition, digital transformation and an economy that works for people are crucial for relaunching and modernising the economies of the Western Balkans, helping to create jobs and growth, addressing the long-standing challenges faced by young people in the region such as limited job prospects, and inequality. Research, innovation, education and culture are essential drivers in this process - underpinned by evidence-based policymaking.
In such a context, the Western Balkans Platforms on Education and Training & Research and Innovation play a central role in stimulating, monitoring and supporting the cooperation in research, education and innovation between the European Union Member States, the European Commission and the Western Balkans to EU funded programmes and beyond. The annual Platforms’ Ministerial meetings allow identifying common priorities, discussing latest policy and reforming measures, deciding on spin-off activities and follow-up measures as well as on topics for regional cooperation with EU assistance.
The Western Balkans Steering Platform on Research and Innovation was launched in 2006. It now meets annually at Ministerial level and aims to support the enhanced integration of the Western Balkan Six (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo *, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) into the European Research Area. It is a strategic body to deal with European, multilateral and regional issues of Research and Innovation policies in and with the Western Balkans. It also acts as an information exchange centre where the latest national developments in a given field are presented, discussed and best practices are exchanged.
In cooperation with the Ministries of Education of the Western Balkans Six, the Commission launched the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training on 7 March 2012. Its objectives are to support the transition for the candidate countries and to better prepare the potential candidates in the region for their eventual participation in European Union policies and programmes on education and training. The Ministerial Platform meetings, which convene the Ministers responsible for education in the region and their main staff, decide on spin-off activities and follow-up measures to be taken.
This year, the joint Ministerial Meeting of the Western Balkans Platforms on Education and Training & Research and Innovation brings together key stakeholders from the European Union and the Western Balkan region in an online exchange forum.
During the meeting, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, presents her vision and new narrative for the Western Balkans: the ‘Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’, a comprehensive, long-term cooperation strategy of the EU and the Western Balkans.
For the German EU Council Presidency, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research Thomas Rachel will further highlight the efforts of the Council Presidency directed towards the Western Balkans in the fields of education, research, innovation and culture. Furthermore, distinguished keynote speakers contribute to the Ministerial Round Table discussions.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence
Bernhard Magenhann, Deputy Director-General, EC DG Joint Research Centre
Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director, EC DG European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations
Chair: Tamas Szucs, Director, EC DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture
Statements by the Ministerial participants of Culture of the Western Balkans
Statements by the Ministerial participants of Education of the Western Balkans
Chair: Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General, EC DG Research and Innovation
Statements by the Ministerial participants of Research and Innovation of the Western Balkans
Statements by the Ministerial participants in charge of Smart Specialisation of the Western Balkans
Mariya Gabriel is the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, Youth and Sport. Under her leadership, the new Horizon Europe, Erasmus+, and the cultural strand of Creative Europe programmes (2021-2027) will be defined and implemented.
Her main priorities are excellence in research, innovation and education (ERA, EEA, EIA); tackling the R&I divide in Europe; Europe as a leader in strategic innovation areas through the digital and green transition, with a particular attention for young people and regions. “No one left behind” and “Think out of the box” are her mottos.
Between 2017 and 2019, Mariya Gabriel was European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. She proposed the new Digital Europe programme, worked on EU Strategy on AI, disinformation online, cybersecurity and launched the EuroHPC strategy. She has extensively engaged with external EU partners to enhance digital cooperation, in particular with the Western Balkans and Africa.
She was elected as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 2009, 2014 and 2019. Mariya Gabriel is First Vice-President of the European People's Party (EPP), and, since 2012, Vice-President of EPP Women. Commissioner Gabriel is a board member of the United Nations youth programme Generation Unlimited (GenU). She has been ranked among the 50 most influential women in Europe in the field of cybersecurity by the leading European cybersecurity magazine SC Media UK (2019).
Mariya Gabriel is also known for her involvement in the fight for gender equality. Among others, she received the prestigious Italian prize “Golden Apple” for highest achievements for women. At the European Parliament, she was awarded twice "MEP of the year" - in 2016 for the Development category, and in 2013 for the Gender Equality category.
In November 2020, Commissioner Gabriel received the Annual Award of the Vienna Economic Forum "Partner of the Year 2020" for contribution to the economic development, rewarding Ms Gabriel’s vision of a European knowledge strategy comprising the European Education Area, the European Research Area and the new Digital Education Action Plan.
She holds a Master's degree in political sciences and international relations from the Institute of Political Studies (Bordeaux, FR) and a Bachelor’s degree in Bulgarian and French Languages from “Paisii Hilendarski” University (Plovdiv, BG). She also graduated from “Dr.Petar Beron” Language High School (Kyustendil, BG).
Antoaneta Angelova-Krasteva has been Director for Innovation, International Cooperation and Sport at DG EAC since 2016. Her main activities relate to the areas of education, academic and business cooperation, research and innovation, sport. Her Directorate is responsible for managing the international cooperation in education and training, youth and research and the international dimension, of programmes, such as Creative Europe, Erasmus+, European Solidarity Corps, and Horizon 2020.
Antoaneta joined the European Commission in 2008. She has occupied various management and expert positions across the Commission and dealt with a wide range of topics such as external relations and enlargement, internal security and police cooperation, cyber security, stakeholder relations and international affairs. Prior to entering the European Commission, Antoaneta worked as a Bulgarian diplomat in Brussels for five years. She is a graduate in political science of Sofia University, with training and qualifications in European studies from Germany (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung) and the UK (Sussex University).
Alexandar Bogdanović was born in 1977 in Cetinje. He finished high school in California, USA, and graduated from the Faculty of Management in Belgrade in 2000, as the best student in his class. During that period, he was awarded with numerous acknowledgements and scholarships. He finished his specialisation at the Institute for European Politics in Berlin in 2003.
His career began at the Ministry of Economy of Montenegro, where he worked from 2000 to 2005 as an advisor to the minister and in public relations. In December 2005, he was appointed as advisor to the President of Montenegro in the field of economic relations, and in 2009 he became a Member of Parliament, the youngest one at that time. He was a member of the board for security and defence, the board for economy, finance and budget and the board for international relations and European integration. He has served as Mayor of the Old Royal Capital Cetinje since December 2010.
He was a member of the Permanent High Level Group (PHLG) and representative of Montenegro in the Athens process. From 2011 to 2014, he was the President of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro. In December 2014, he was elected President of the Board of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro. He has also been the President of the Board of Directors of Monteput since 2013.
He has authored and co-authored several scientific–research works in the field of finance and economic relations. From 2007 to 2011, he was lecturer at the Faculty for State and European Studies in Podgorica in the courses “Economy of Public Sector” and “Public Finances of the EU.” He was guest lecturer at the University of Belgrade, the Diplomatic Academy and Sofia University.
He has won significant awards and recognitions, such as the prestigious award for Best Mayor of the region in 2014, during the ceremony for the election of the best manager and best company of Southeastern and Central Europe. Italian President Mr. Giorgio Napolitano awarded him with the Order of the Star of Italy in 2014, the most significant acknowledgement granted to foreign citizens for their extraordinary contribution to the promotion of Italian culture.
He has been Honourary Citizen of Miami Beach, Florida since May 2017.
He speaks English and Spanish.
Majlinda Bregu was born in Tirana on 19 May 1974. She took office as the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council on 1 January 2019. She graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Tirana and obtained a master’s degree in social and political sciences from the same university. In 2005, she was awarded a PhD in Sociology from the University of Urbino, Italy.
She started her academic career as lecturer in “Research Methods in Social Sciences” and “Academic Writing.” In 1992, she began collaborating as a part-time anchor with the news department at the Albanian public television. Her media experience and fulltime academic career ended in 2005, when she became involved in politics. For three consecutive terms (2005-2017) she was elected Member of Parliament of Albania, as a Democratic Party member (Centre Right).
In July 2005, she was elected as President of the Albanian Parliamentary Delegation to the EU–Albania Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee. She was also the Chair of the Sub-Committee on Gender Equality and Minors. From March 2007 to September 2013, she served as Minister of European Integration and Government Spokesperson. She is the longest-serving Minister of European Integration in Albania.
In 2013–2017, she chaired the European Integration Committee of the Albanian Parliament. In 2015–2017, she also chaired the National Council for European Integration, which is the highest consultative body on European integration. In both roles, she encouraged all-inclusive processes in the integration-related reforms and promoted the importance of the membership perspective for the stability of the region. She was an active contributor to the approval by the Parliament of the comprehensive justice reform, which is currently perceived as a good-practice example for the Western Balkans and EU neighbourhood countries. She also initiated several legal initiatives against gender-based and domestic violence, which are currently in force.
She is married and a mother of two. She is fluent in English and Italian and has a good knowledge of Spanish.
Mila Carovska was born in 1984. She has dedicated a great part of her professional life to the field of social work. Her experience includes the facilitation of drama workshops for children housed in institutions and the facilitation of educational workshops, and she has also worked as a SOS operator and supervisor on consultations for drug users and their families, as a collaborator of drug treatment institutions, as a social worker in the same field, as a pre-/post-test for HIV/AIDS advisor and as a field researcher.
She graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy of Saints Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, where she studied at the Institute for Social Work and Social Policy.
She was a Special Advisor in the Cabinet of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy Frosina Remenski.
As a proven professional in her field of activity, she furthered her career and education through the years, in numerous work positions that involve direct communication with socially vulnerable and threatened groups of citizens. Her managerial participation in dozens of projects in the sphere of social policy encompasses different categories of citizens such as Roma, youth and addicts and covers topics such as domestic violence, sexual rights and education for vulnerable groups.
She is engaged in twelve domestic and international organisations as an expert in her field. Being dedicated to social work, she has obtained more than 24 certificates from domestic and international institutions, as proof of her commitment to issues from the social sphere.
Mila Carovska was appointed Deputy President of the Government of North Macedonia in charge of economic affairs and the coordination of economic sectors on 4 January 2020. Previously, in the period between 1 June 2017 and 3 January 2020, she served as Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
Anila Denaj was born in Tirana on 18 September 1973. She received her degree in financial and banking management in 1995 from the University of Tirana and has more than 22 years of work experience.
In September 2018, she was appointed General Director of the Compulsory Healthcare Insurance Fund (FSDKSH) in Albania. Previously, she was a member of the Board of the Administrative Council of FSDKSH, a member of the Board of the Albanian Social Insurance Fund and a member of the Supervisory Board of the insurance company INSIG sh.a. For a period of three years, she was a member of the Board of the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority in Albania (AKEP). In the period between October 2013 and January 2015, she held the position of General Director of the Ministry of Finance, with a focus on overseeing operations at the Departments of Finance, Legislation and State Ownership, Information Technology Management and Administration and Human Resources.
She worked for 12 years at ProCredit Holding GmbH / IPC Consulting GmbH, holding various managerial positions in ProCredit Group banks in El Salvador, Bolivia, Ecuador, Romania and Mozambique. She started her experience in this field at FEFAD bank, later called ProCredit, as Deputy General Director.
She has collaborated with the Albanian School of Public Administration (ASPA) since 2014, as a part-time lecturer in the field of human resource management.
Prof. Dr Marijana Dukić Mijatović was born on 28 December 1975 in Kula. In 1999, she graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Novi Sad. She passed the bar exam in 2002 with honours, after an internship at the Commercial Court in Novi Sad. In 2008, she obtained the title of Doctor of Laws from the Faculty of Law of the University Business Academy in Novi Sad.
She is an associate professor at the Faculty of Technical Sciences – Department of Social Sciences of the University of Novi Sad, and since 2016 she has been a full professor at the Faculty of Law for Economics and Justice of the University Business Academy. In 2012, she served as president of the supervisory board of the public company Institute for Constructional Development of the City of Novi Sad, and in 2014 she was president of the supervisory board of Dnevnik Holding AD Novi Sad. In 2014–2016, she held the role of Director of the Office for Local Economic Development of the City of Novi Sad, and in 2016–2020 she was advisor to the Mayor of Novi Sad on investments and the implementation of strategic projects. In 2016–2018, she was a representative of the republic’s capital in the port of Novi Sad. Moreover, she was head of the negotiating team of the city of Novi Sad for various investment projects. In 2014–2020, she was a member of the board of directors of the fund for the construction of apartments for young scientists and artists. In 2018–2020, she was Vice President of the National Council for Higher Education of the Republic of Serbia.
By the decision of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, which was passed at the request of the Institute for International Politics and Economy in Belgrade in 2020, she acquired the scientific title of Senior Research Associate. She is the author of seven books and over 120 scientific and professional papers, 20 of which have been published in reputable journals indexed on the Thompson Reuters list. Apart from her native language, she is fluent in English.
Vlora Dumoshi was born in Pristina. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Pristina.
She has more than two decades of work experience in programmes related to education, youth and culture. In the course of 1996–1999, she served as the coordinator of the educational and cultural programme within the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society. During her undergraduate studies, she was an active participant in student organisations, making a special contribution to the students’ magazine “Bota e Re.”
During the period 2002–2009, she managed educational programmes within the international humanitarian organisation Catholic Relief Services and later UNICEF, working mostly with young people of different backgrounds and ethnicities: Albanian, Serbian, RAE etc.
At the end of 1999, she worked as a civilian officer within the US Peacekeeping Forces for Kosovo and Bosnia in the USA. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the Director of the Department of Culture, Youth and Sports in the Municipality of Pristina.
During the period 2014–2017, she served as the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister of Kosovo Isa Mustafa. Throughout her work, she has proven her abilities in various decision-making processes, through solving different problems and setting important priorities.
As the Municipal Director of Culture, Youth and Sports, she demonstrated her willingness to work for the needs of youth, artists, athletes and the wider community in general. In addition to Albanian, she is fluent in English and Serbian.
Suvad Džafić worked as an advisor to the minister at the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in addition to serving as senior specialist for receiving and processing petitions and monitoring their implementation at the Human Rights Department of the same ministry. After that, he worked for the Ministry of Civil Affairs of BiH as an advisor to the deputy minister, and then served as Assistant Minister at the Ministry’s Sports Department. Currently, he is serving as the Assistant Minister of Culture and Science at the same ministry.
He has held various roles at the Ministry of Civil Affairs of BiH, the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Federation of BiH and the working bodies established by the Council of Ministers of BiH. He is currently the NCP for several EU programmes, and he has also participated in the development of programmes under IPA for BiH, managing working groups in drafting laws, state strategies and regulations.
He graduated from the Islamic Pedagogical Faculty in Zenica as well as from the History Department of the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo. He obtained a master's degree from the Department of State and International Public Law of the Faculty of Law in Zenica. He has co-authored several scientific papers and participated in numerous conferences, both national and international.
Maja Gojković was born in Novi Sad in 1963. She graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Novi Sad and passed her bar exam in 1989.
She served as mayor of Novi Sad from 2004 to 2008, the first woman in the history of Novi Sad at this position.
She was a councillor in the Novi Sad City Assembly between 2008 and 2012, and since 1992 she has been an MP in the parliaments of both Yugoslavia and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. During one of these mandates, she was Vice President of the Chamber of Citizens, and she participated in the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. She was also a councillor in the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. On 23 April 2014, she was elected Speaker of National Assembly. She was re-elected in that position on 6 June 2016. In 2014, she was further appointed head of the delegation of the Serbian Parliament in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and during her mandate she made Belgrade the host of the 141st IPU Assembly. Her both terms in office as the Speaker of the National Assembly were marked by the strong development of inter-parliamentary cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral level.
She was a member of the Women's Parliamentary Network since its founding in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, and contributed to greater participation of women in the political and social life of Serbia. She is the initiator of numerous projects of wide social significance and support to vulnerable groups, such as "Women live in the countryside" and "You are not alone", with the aim of overcoming prejudices against young people with mental health and disability problems.
In addition to her commitment to gender equality and support for vulnerable groups, she is strongly committed to developing awareness of the importance of environmental protection.
She speaks Serbian, English and German.
Ankica Gudeljević was born on 26 July 1964. She finished elementary school in Germany and then attended the “Pero Kosorić” school center in Sarajevo. She studied at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Sarajevo from 1984 to 1989 and earned the title of Professor of German Language and Literature.
From 1990 to 1996, she lived in Graz, Austria, where she first worked as an interpreter for an insurance company and then went into private business.
In 1997, she began her career in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Until 2003, she worked at the School of Economics in the Brčko District of BiH as a German language teacher; from 2004 to 2009, she was director of Autoland d.o.o., and then until 2014 she was head of the marketing department of the public utility company Komunalno, also in the Brčko District.
In 2015, she began working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she was advisor to the deputy minister, and in 2018 she was appointed ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Federal Republic of Germany.
From 2019 until her appointment as Minister of Civil Affairs of BiH, she worked as deputy director of the Brčko District Health Insurance Fund.
Since 1997, she has been politically active in the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH); from 2011 to 2015, she was a member of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency; and since 2015, she has been a member of the HDZ BiH Central Committee and deputy president of the ''Queen Katarina Kosača'' women's association in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
She is fluent in German and English. She is married and resides permanently at the Brčko District of BiH.
Zsuzsanna Hargitai is Regional Director for Western Balkans at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Based in Serbia, Zsuzsanna focusses on increasing the EBRD’s investments and enhancing policy reform advisory services in the region in light of the countries’ European Union (EU) approximation.
During her long career at EBRD, she has worked as country manager in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia and Hungary. As director, she has also led the work of the teams for country strategy and results management as well as for EU funds co-financing and financial instruments at EBRD headquarters.
She holds a master’s degree from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Adnan Husic has been serving as Assistant to the Minister at the Ministry of Civil Affairs since 1 July 2012.
He directly manages the Ministry’s education sector in addition to coordinating its activities. He distributes duties to civil servants and employees in the sector, gives direction and provides direct expert support to executives. Mr Husic previously held the role of senior expert for European integration within the health sector of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
He graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Sarajevo. He is currently studying at the Faculty of Economics of the same higher education institution.
Mubera Kurpejović was born on 18 December 1982 in Rožaje, where she finished primary and secondary school. She graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Montenegro. During her studies, she was the recipient of a large number of awards.
In 2006, she started working at the Ministry of Education of Montenegro. In 2010, she became Deputy Minister for Higher Education at the same ministry, where she is now Director General. In 2016, she was a Member of the Parliament of Montenegro.
Ms Kurpejović is the President of the Qualifications Council and a member of the Council for Higher Education, the Commission for European Integration and the Committee for Association and Stabilisation. She is the head of the working group for negotiations on the accession of Montenegro to the European Union for Chapter 26, Education and Culture. She participates in a large number of projects financed by the European Union and World Bank funds.
She speaks English and Russian.
Evis Kushi was born on 7 October 1975 in the city of Elbasan. She is married and has two daughters. In 1997, she graduated from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Tirana, with a degree in business administration (marketing). In 2008, she earned a PhD in Economics and Tourism from Staffordshire University in England.
In November 2010, she earned the academic title “associate professor” from “Aleksandër Moisiu” University in Durrës. Six years later, on 26 July 2016, she also earned the academic title “professor” from the Agricultural University of Tirana.
She started her career in 1998 as a lecturer at “Aleksandër Xhuvani” University in Elbasan, in the primary courses “Basics of Marketing” and “Econometrics” (1998–2012). In 2010–2012, she held the position of Director of the Economics and Law Department, Faculty of Economics, at the same university. In 2012–2013, she served as the Dean of the University’s Faculty of Economics.
Since 2013, Mrs. Kushi has been a Member of Parliament representing the region of Elbasan. In the parliament, she served in the Commission for Economy and Finances. At the same time, she was a part-time professor at “Aleksandër Xhuvani” University in Elbasan and the Mediterranean University of Albania.
She has been a member of the Socialist Party since March 2013 and a member of the Socialist Party Chairmanship since April 2013. Until her appointment as minister, she served as Deputy Chairwoman of the Socialist Party’s Parliamentary Group.
She has participated in many national and international conferences. She has authored and co-authored many scientific publications.
She is fluent in English, French and Italian.
Richard Li is an analyst in the OECD’s Directorate for Education and Skills. Richard collects and analyses data, reviews education systems and drafts reports containing recommendations for improvement. Previously, he also helped manage the PISA-based Test for Schools project.
Prior to joining the OECD, Richard was a researcher and evaluator in Hawaii, USA. He worked with school systems, universities and non-profit organisations in the Pacific to monitor and assess their educational programming. He was also a teacher and college/career counsellor in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Seattle, USA.
Richard holds an MA in International Education Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.
Professor Dr Ramë Likaj was born on 24 March 1971. He completed his primary and secondary education in Deçan with excellent results and continued his university studies, including master's and doctoral degrees, at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Pristina. His academic success granted him the "Distinguished Student" scholarship. He is married and has two children.
For 26 years, he has been teaching at the Mechanics Department of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Pristina. He has published over 80 scientific papers and 20 university texts and dispensaries, as well as dozens of research papers and reports in the field of education.
In the course of his academic career, he has completed several specialisations in the field of vocational education and training in Germany, Italy, Austria and Croatia, among others, and has represented Kosovo in many international conferences.
Since 1999, he has worked on international projects related to the field of vocational education and training for institutions such as the European Commission, the European Training Foundation, GIZ, LuxDevelopment, KfW, WUS Austria, Kulturkontakt and others.
During his career he has served as:
- Chairman of the Board of the University "Haxhi Zeka" in Peja (2015–2016)
- Chairman of the Council for Vocational Education and Training (2015)
- Coordinator of the Republic of Kosovo for the PISA 2016 evaluation
- Kosovo Coordinator for the Turin Process (2015-2016)
- MEST Coordinator for VET for the Evaluation of the Strategic Education Plan 2011–2016
- MEST Coordinator for VET for the Development of the Strategic Education Plan 2017–2021
- Member of the Senate of the University of Pristina "Hasan Prishtina"
- Member of the Southeast European Network for Teacher Training and Vocational Education and Training Coaches in Turin, Italy, since 2003
- Member of the working group for drafting the Government Development Plan 2017–2021, Pillar IV, Human Resources
- Member of the Council for Vocational Education and Training for two terms, MEST 2006–2017
- Member and Chair of Expert Panels on Validation of Qualifications and Accreditation of Institutions, National Qualifications Authority
- Advisor to the Minister of Education, Science and Technology (2015–2017).
- Advisor for Education to the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr. Ramush Haradinaj (2018–2019).
Bernard Magenhann is a chartered accountant and a registered auditor. He started his career as an external auditor working successively for Mazars and PricewaterhouseCoopers. He joined the European Commission in Brussels in 2002, where he worked in the Internal Audit Service, notably as assistant to the Director-General and head of unit responsible for the internal audit of the regulatory agencies (2002–2011).
He was in charge of business process re-engineering in the Directorate-General for Human Resources and Security (DG HR) between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, he was appointed Resource Director of the Directorate-General for Informatics (DG DIGIT). In 2016, he returned to DG HR, where he was appointed Deputy Director-General, notably in charge of organisational development, talent management and budget and finance.
He joined the Joint Research Centre on 16 May 2020 as Deputy Director-General. He is in charge of energy, transport and climate, nuclear safety and security as well as support services.
Professor Dr Hasan Mandal was born in Eskişehir in 1965. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Department of Metallurgical Engineering of Middle East Technical University as an honours student in 1987 and his PhD from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, in 1992. During the years 1992–1994, he did his predoctoral training at Newcastle University and continued his postdoctoral studies at Karlsruhe University, Germany, in 1997–1998.
In 1994, he started his academic career at the Department of Ceramic Engineering of Anadolu University as an assistant professor. He received his associate professor degree in 1996 and his tenured professor degree in 2001. He has published many studies (more than 140), 70 of them in journals under Science Citation Index (SCI). He also holds six international patents. He has been granted various awards both nationally and internationally, including the TÜBITAK Science Award. Currently, he is a member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), the World Academy of Ceramics (WAC) and the Academia Europaea (AE).
He worked as director of research and graduate policies during the years 2011–2015; since January 2012, he has been serving as vice rector in Sabancı University.
He also served as President of the Global Engineering Deans Council, First Vice President of the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, President of the European Ceramic Society, Vice President of Anadolu University, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture of Anadolu University, Chairperson of the Turkish Engineering Deans Council, board member in both ATAP and GOSP Technopark, board member in Innovent Innovative Ventures, board member in BOREN and executive board member in TÜBITAK, Technology Transfer Mechanisms Support Group (TEMEG) and TÜBITAK, Engineering Research Group (MAG).
He was granted YÖK (Council of Higher Education) membership on 25 March 2015. He was elected to serve on the executive board of the YÖK on 1 April 2015 and as Deputy Chairman of the YÖK on 21 July 2016. He performed these duties until 12 January 2018; since then, he has been serving as Deputy Rector of Sabancı University
He was appointed President of TÜBITAK on 22 February 2018 by decree. He still serves as member of the Council of Higher Education.
Elva Margariti, born in Tirana in 1980, currently holds the position of Minister of Culture of the Republic of Albania. Prior to that, she held the position of Territorial Adviser and National Coordinator for the Integrated Rural Development Programme (100 Villages Programme) at the Albanian Prime Minister’s Office.
In 2008, she completed a Master of Science in Architecture at the University of Florence, Italy, with distinction in the fields of design, retraining and revitalising built spaces and bioarchitecture. That same year, she was licensed under the Order of the Architect in Florence. She has many years of experience as a freelance professional in various fields of architecture and urban planning and development, and as an associate of several design studios in both Italy and Albania. In 2004–2005, she furthered her experience in the field of design based on the principles of bioarchitecture at Tampere University of Technology in Finland.
In 2006, she enriched her knowledge in the field of cultural heritage revitalisation by preserving traditional techniques at Tongji University in Shanghai. That same year, she joined the team for the design and organisation of the exhibition "Cultural Heritage Preservation, Rehabilitation and Reuse. The Tuscan Tradition," at Shanghai's Urban Planning Exhibition Hall.
Since 2009, she has collaborated with architectural design studios and assisted executives in Florence with various lighting projects. Her experience in this field culminated in the exhibition "Lo Stile Dello Zar" (2009) at the Museo del Tessuto in Prato, Italy, and the permanent exhibition at the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Museo Galileo) in Florence (2010).
In 2015 and for a period of three years, she assumed the role of didactic coordinator for the Master of Science in Architecture study programme and the Bachelor of Architecture and Environmental Engineering programme at the Catholic University of Our Lady of Good Counsel, in collaboration with the University of Florence.
She is the mother of a ten-year-old girl and a proud supporter of cultural programmes that promote Albanian cultural identity to children.
Martin Mössler studied mechanical engineering at Graz University of Technology, political science in Salzburg and international relations in Oxford, and completed a master's degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His professional life has included a place on the team of Austria’s Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer, managing a tourism company and working at the rectorate of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Between 2010 and 2016, he served as assistant to the Rector of Graz University of Technology.
Since 2015, he has been a member of the “Council for a 21st Century,” working on the future of employment.
In June 2016, he was appointed Managing Director of Science Park Graz, General Manager of ESA BIC Austria and ESA IAP Ambassador. His aim is to develop Science Park Graz into the leading SEE startup incubator.
Milica Nikolić is an anthropologist and ethnologist. She holds a Master of Science in the History of Culture and Historical Anthropology. Previously she worked in the departments of Cultural Heritage and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro, where she was coordinator of several international projects and programmes. In December 2016, she became Secretary General of the National Commission of Montenegro for UNESCO.
She has been involved in the preparation of several strategic documents of the Ministry of Culture. She was and still is coordinator of the nomination processes and the revision of the management plan for the World Heritage Sites in Montenegro. Moreover, she is a member of several international working groups in the field of culture. She has written several articles in various publications regarding cultural policies, cultural heritage, women’s rights and multiculturalism.
Cesare Onestini took up the post of Director of the European Training Foundation in September 2017. Prior to joining the ETF, he was Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to India and Bhutan. He joined the European Commission in 1995, working for six years in education and training policy, starting by promoting cooperation in education and training.
He has developed intercultural education projects, coordinated school partnerships and teachers’ mobility across EU Member States and was part of the team that developed proposals for the first EU programme for lifelong learning. He has since worked for the EU in international trade, security and crisis management and external relations, including as Head of Political and Security Council Affairs in the EU Delegation to the United Nations in New York. Mr Onestini joined the European External Action Service in 2010, playing a key role in setting up the service, as advisor to the chief operating officer and head of the corporate board secretariat.
He has been a visiting fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore and is a graduate of Oxford University, where he achieved a Doctorate in Higher Education Policy.
Jean-Eric Paquet became Director-General for Research and Innovation on 1 April 2018; however, his involvement in EU research policy dates back to 2002, when he became Deputy Head of Cabinet of Philippe Busquin, then Commissioner in charge of Research and Development.
Jean-Eric’s career in the European Commission began in 1993. Since then, he has contributed to shaping EU policy in various fields and has achieved major breakthroughs, notably in the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, where he led the development of the Trans-European Transport Network policy and was responsible for Europe’s transport infrastructure policy and investment strategies, the single European rail area, inland waterways and port policy.
He also gained considerable experience at international level: in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, his portfolio covered Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. He was also EU Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania from 2004 to 2007.
In 2015, he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission, in charge of better regulation and policy coordination. In all his endeavours, he puts co-creation and systemic change at the heart of the decision-making process, and he strongly believes that citizens should be more involved in shaping public policy agendas.
Stephen Quest is the Director-General of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) as of 1 May 2020. Prior to this, he was the Director-General of the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD) as well as of the Directorate-General for Informatics (DG DIGIT), driving the digital transformation of the Commission.
His career spans more than 25 years in the European civil service and has included work on the EU budget and social and environmental policy as well as four years as assistant to the Secretary-General. As Director-General, Stephen is particularly focussed on modernising organisational culture and promoting innovation within the Commission, as regards both the use of technology and the empowerment and involvement of staff in decision-making. He is particularly passionate about communication and the interface between policy and technology.
Thomas Rachel was born in Düren on 17 May 1962. He obtained his Abitur at the Städtisches Gymnasium am Wirteltor in Düren. In 1992, he earned a Master in Political Science, History and Public Law from the University of Bonn with a fellowship from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
He has been a Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research since November 2005. In this role, he supports the Minister in fulfilling her governmental duties, in particular in the parliamentary sphere. His priority topics at the Federal Ministry are the science system, higher education institutions and research organisations, key technologies and innovation strategies, bioethics and bioeconomy as well as energy and climate research. He is a member of the Senate of the Fraunhofer Society (FhG) and a member of the Board of Governors of the German–Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF).
He has been a Member of the German Bundestag since 1994. He was spokesman on education and research policy of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group from 1998 to 2005. As a directly elected Member of the German Bundestag, he represents the constituency of Düren. He was Vice-Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Globalisation of the World Economy, later also spokesman of CDU/CSU in the Commission of Inquiry on Ethics and Law in Modern Medicine. For many years, he was Vice-Chairman of the German–Greek Parliamentary Friendship Group.
He has been Chairman of the CDU Aachen district association since 2011 and Chairman of the CDU Düren–Jülich county association since 2012. He has also been involved in voluntary work from a young age, initially in youth work and later in local politics and the Protestant Church. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Land Synod of the Protestant Church of the Rhineland and since 2003 a deputy member of the Synod of the Protestant Church of Germany. He has been Federal Chairman of the CDU/CSU Protestant Working Group (EAK) and as such a member of the CDU Federal Executive Board since 2003.
From 1986 to 1987, Mr. Rachel was assistant to Matthias Wissmann, a Member of the German Bundestag. From 1992 to 2004, he worked for the Steel Trade Association Düsseldorf.
He is married and has one daughter.
Signe Ratso is Deputy Director-General and a member of the Management Board of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. She is the chief negotiator for the Horizon Europe Association and also responsible for open innovation and for citizens’ engagement in R&I policy, as well as for the overall coordination on international cooperation.
From 2006 and until she joined DG R&I, she held various senior management positions in DG Trade.
Before joining the Commission, she worked as Deputy Secretary General at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of the Republic of Estonia. During Estonia's accession negotiations, she was responsible for negotiating six economic chapters.
She has two university degrees from Tartu University in Estonia, in English Philology and in International Trade and Economics.
Matteo Rivellini is an experienced manager with unique expertise in infrastructure, migration, blended finance and development finance in the Western Balkans, Italy and Central Europe. He currently holds the position of Head of Division in charge of lending operations in Slovenia, Croatia and Western Balkans within the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Matteo has played a pivotal role in the rolling out of the Economic Resilience Initiative in the Western Balkans and in the overall coordination of the operational response to the refugee crisis on behalf of the EIB. Previous experience in the Bank as advisor to the Italian vice-president and legal advisor on the EIB operations in Italy and the Western Balkans have nurtured and enriched his policy-oriented interdisciplinary background.
Before joining the EIB in 2003, Matteo worked in a renowned law firm in Milan. He holds a degree in international law from Università Cattolica in Milan and speaks fluent Italian, English, French and Spanish.
When he isn’t working, Matteo can be found tending to his olive trees.
Mr. Oltion Rrumbullaku was born in the city of Kukes in 1980.
He has worked as a lecturer at the University of Tirana in different subjects, such as "Business Taxation", "Fiscal Administration" and "Financial Management". He finished his higher education studies at the Faculty of Economics in this university in 2002.
In 2011 he completed a 6-month specialization at George Washington University, as part of a programme of the US Department of State / American Council. In 2015 he received the title "Docent".
Since 2017, Mr. Rrumbullaku has worked as an external consultant in two European Union projects, IPA 2014 for "Support for Improving the Citizen-Centered Public Services" in ADISA and IPA 2014 "Support for Civil Service Reform in Albania” in the Department of Public Administration, which highlights the contribution to the creation of a new salary scheme for the civil service and the entire public administration, as one of the main elements of public administration reform.
At the same time, during the previous years and during 2016-2019 he has been attached to IDRA Research & Consulting as Program Manager. Mr. Rrumbullaku has participated in many projects of international institutions such as OECD, EBRD, World Bank, UNDP, ILO, FES, etc., mainly in the field of budget, treasury, strategy evaluation, immigration, employment, education, youth, etc.
Since July 2019, Mr. Rrumbullaku is a member of the Municipal Council in the Municipality of Tirana. In December 2019, he has been appointed as Deputy Minister of Education, covering issues of higher education and scientific research.
Genoveva Ruiz Calavera was born in Madrid in 1962. She attended Marlborough School in Los Angeles (USA) for her final year of high school. She studied philology in Madrid and later earned her master’s degree in public management from the École de Commerce Solvay in Brussels. Before joining the EU, she held different managerial positions in the private sector. Since June 2016, she has been the Director in charge of the Western Balkans at the European Commission.
She started her EU career in 1992, assisting the negotiations for the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria and later of the Baltic and Eastern European countries, Malta and Cyprus. In 1999–2000 she served in the European Commission’s Task Force for the Reconstruction of Kosovo in Pristina, and as deputy head of the unit for Serbia and Montenegro and head of the Kosovo issues unit until 2009. She was head of the crisis response and peace building unit in the Directorate-General for External Relations, and following the creation of the European External Action Service in 2011, she joined the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI).
Branko Ružić (born 14 December 1975) graduated from the International Relations Department of the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade.
He has served several terms as a deputy at the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and the Assembly of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. He was also a member of the permanent delegation of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
In the Government of Serbia, he was the Minister without portfolio in charge of European integration in 2013, at the time of adoption of the Negotiating Framework and the official opening of negotiations between the Republic of Serbia and the European Union.
In the period from on 29 June 2017, he performed the function of the Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, in charge for public administration reform.
On 28 October 2020, he was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development.
Branko Ružić is a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia, where he has served as youth chairperson, vice-chairperson of the Steering Committee, chairperson of the Executive Committee and spokesperson. Today, he is the vice-president of the Socialist Party of Serbia.
Simon Schmitz is Senior Scientific Officer in the European and International Cooperation Division at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). He coordinates the “Foresight in the Western Balkans” project on behalf of the International Service Facility of the European Commission. He also coordinates the round table discussions for Germany’s Federal Government's Strategy for the Internationalisation of Education, Science and Research.
Before joining the DLR, he worked as a policy analyst in the OECD’s Public Governance Directorate for five years. He has also worked on the team in charge of Costa Rica’s accession process to the OECD as well as on issues related to public sector reforms, policy monitoring and evaluation, open government and the administration of the EEA Grants across the Directorate. Previously, he was associate editor in a think tank. Simon holds a BA in European Studies and an Erasmus Mundus Master in Global Studies.
Margarete Schramböck was born in 1970 in Tyrol, Austria. She studied business administration at the University of Economics and Business in Vienna (WU), where she obtained her Doctorate in Social and Economic Sciences in 1997.
Before starting her career in 2002 as CEO of NextiraOne, an IT communications company based in Paris, she held a management position at Alcatel. From December 2008 to December 2011, she was managing director of NextiraOne Germany. In 2014, she began working as CEO of Dimension Data Austria, which is a globally leading provider of network and communications technologies and IT services, in particular in the fields of network and computer centres, cloud services, IT security, voice and video communications as well as application integration. Between 2016 and 2017, she was CEO of A1 Telekom Austria.
On 18 December 2017, Margarete Schramböck was appointed Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, and from 8 January 2018 to 3 June 2019 she was Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs.
She remains deeply attached to her alma mater and is a member of the WU's Centre of Excellence. In 2017, she was elected both Tyrolean of the Year and University of Economics and Business in Vienna WU Manager of 2017.
She was a member of the National Council from 23 October 2019 to 7 January 2020.
She was appointed as Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs on 7 January 2020.
Irena Stefoska is a fulltime professor at the Institute of National History of the Saints Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. She graduated from the University’s Faculty of Philosophy, Institute of Classical Studies, in 1991.
She holds a master’s degree from the Central European University in Budapest (1994) and the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade (2001). She received her PhD from the Faculty of Philosophy, Institute of History, in Skopje (2007). She won a Fulbright Scholarship as a research professor at Brown University in the United States (2009/2010) and a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship at Columbia University's Historical Dialogue and Accountability Programme in New York (winter semester 2012).
She is an alumna of the Georg Eckert Institute in Braunschweig, Germany, the world's leading institution for researching history, geography and mother tongue textbooks. She has also been a member of the international network Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University since 2012.
She has given research lectures at eminent universities in Europe and the United States, including Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Columbia University, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Universities of Graz and Belgrade, Sofia University and others. She has published extensively in her country and abroad.
She has translated professionally literature and fiction from English, Serbian, Latin and Bulgarian. She was an MP of the Republic of North Macedonia (2016-2020), where she chaired the Committee on Culture and the group for the cooperation with the Greek Parliament.
As a long-time civil activist in several areas, she was a member of:
- The Advisory Committee for Culture at the Open Society Foundation in North Macedonia
- The Management Board of the Swiss Cultural Foundation "Pro Helvetia"
- The Management Board of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
- The Academic Committee of Balkan Historians at the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe in Thessaloniki
She is fluent in English, Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian, and she has basic knowledge of Greek and French.
Tamás SZŰCS is the Director for Culture and Creativity in DG EAC. He has been a senior official of the European Commission since May 2004. First serving as Head of Cabinet for two Commissioners in the Prodi and Barroso Commissions, then appointed as Director for Strategy in DG Communication, before becoming the Head of Representation of the EC in Hungary. He also fulfilled several senior positions as a career diplomat between 1991 – 2004, being the coordinator of Hungary’s Accession Negotiations and its first "Antici" official, among others.
In addition to earning a Doctorate in Legal and Political Sciences as well as an MA in Aesthetics at the Eötvös Lóránd University in Budapest, he also pursued postgraduate research with various scholarships at the University of Oxford in the UK, is an alumni of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme, and was a visiting EU Fellow (2016 – 2017) at the European University Institute in Florence. T Szucs is a prominent author and editor of several books and specialist publications on European integration.
Colin Wolfe was appointed Head of the Western Balkans Regional Cooperation in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) of the European Commission in January 2017. He is responsible for the regional cooperation policy approach as well as for supporting multi-country assistance programmes.
Previously, he held several positions in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy. He was Head of the Competence Centre on Smart and Sustainable Growth, and he was responsible for regional cooperation, including the development of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the EU Strategy for the Danube Region and the full range of Interreg programmes in the EU-28. He also worked to set up and implement the EU PEACE Programme in Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Prior to his involvement in regional cooperation, he worked for the Commission’s Budget and Employment services. He also spent considerable time working with DG NEAR, negotiating the accession of Hungary and Malta.
In 2001, he became Head of Unit in EuropeAid, covering institution building in the Western Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia. In 2003, he assumed the role of Head of Unit for the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the regional policy service to oversee their accession.
He has a degree in natural sciences from the University of Dublin, Trinity College in Ireland and a post-graduate degree in geography from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Walter Zampieri is the Head of Unit for the "Creative Europe programme: Culture", in the Education, Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
Before taking up his current post in April 2019, he was the Head of Unit of the Cultural Policy unit in in the Directorate General for Education and Culture in the European Commission. Previously, he had been deputy head of the coordination unit and assistant to the Director General for Education and Culture. He started his career in the Commission in the Directorate General for Employment and Social Affairs; among his previous positions, there was the secretariat of the Social Protection Committee.
He has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Connecticut (USA) and a degree in Humanities from the University of Padua, in Italy.
I’m born in Munich, Germany on 28/09/1973. I’ve completed my bachelor studies and master degree at the Faculty of Pristina. I’ve completed the doctoral studies in Albania at the "University of New York Tirana - UNYT" in "Management".
I am currently acting Deputy Minister at the Government of the Republic of Kosovo. This task was given to me by the Prime Minister Mr. Avdullah Hoti on June 15, 2020. Prior to this position, for 7 years I held the position of the director of the department for culture, youth and sports in local government in the municipality of Peja. In the past, before engaging in the public and political sector, for 12 years I had experience in non-governmental organizations where I was the director of Caritas Veneziana and I was committed to the implementation of programs for the development and integration of young people.
During the time I was engaged in the municipality of Peja, I has also acted as the spokesperson of the municipality, for 6 years I’ve been the coordinator of the Municipal Council for Safety in Community (MCSC), I’ve administered the commission for awarding honorary titles to special personalities, the commission for monitoring the municipal strategy for integrity and the commission for monitoring the strategy for communication and contacting.
Currently in the Ministry I am engaged and focused in monitoring and administering regional initiatives and integration processes which cover and relate to culture, youth and sports. I am involved in and give my contribution to the regional organization RYCO (Regional Cooperation Youth Office). I am involved and give my contribution to the European Agenda for the Western Balkans. I am involved in and contribute to various UNDP and UNICEF programs.
In addition to academic and political qualifications, in the past I have attended various trainings for policy making in the field of youth, environmental protection, protection of human rights, peace building and tolerance. I am also trained and skilled in information technology, financial management and problem solving in the community.