A Look From Portuguese at the Human Resources Development Operational Program
The European Union provides technical and financial assistance in accordance with the principle of burden sharing with the candidate or potential candidate country in the implementation of the reforms that will be needed to meet the EU membership criteria and to assist the candidate and potential candidate countries, which it has determined within the scope of the enlargement policy, in the legislative and practical problems that it will encounter in the harmonization process for membership. . In this context, a financial aid system under the name of Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) was developed by the EU in 2007. This program provides technical and financial support to the beneficiary countries by using the project approach through special structures established in the relevant countries in order to achieve the main objectives we have mentioned above. It is not possible to talk about the existence of a social life that develops and progresses without cooperation in today’s world where rapid changes are experienced in technological, scientific, political and economic terms. In this sense, the effective use of EU funds offered to our country within the scope of the Human Resources Development component, the fifth component of IPA, the preparation and successful execution of projects are of great importance.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MoLSS) EU Coordination Department is the only institution responsible for managing the programming, tender, implementation, payment and evaluation processes in the use of funds under the relevant component. This feature is referred to as “Program Authority” in the IPA literature. In this context, the general purpose of the Human Resources Development Operational Program (HRD OP), which was prepared by the MoLSS in the light of the opinions of all relevant stakeholders, is to contribute to the provision of more and better employment opportunities in Turkey, which is always on the agenda. The aim is to support the transition to a knowledge-based economy capable of greater social cohesion and sustainable economic growth. The total budget of the HRD OP, including the national contribution, is approximately 557,478,229 Euros and approximately 79,639,747 Euros per year. The program has been in effect since 2007, and while it initially focused on a certain geography, it started to be implemented throughout Turkey with the latest regulations.
When employment and EU issues were on the agenda, we met with Gizem Harman and Duygu Menekşe, who work in the Project Management department at WYG Turkey, and Paulo Pedroso, who was the Team Leader in a project where MoLSS received technical support on the management of the Operational Program. Paulo Pedroso served as the Minister of Labor in Portugal between 2001 and 2002, and later led the team and provided consultancy services in many projects realized in Portugal, Romania and Bulgaria. Since 2010, he has been working as the Team Leader of the technical support project carried out in Turkey. Paulo Pedroso candidly explains how he evaluates Turkey-EU relations and the HRD OP, and where Turkey should reach in terms of employment.
- As you know , Turkey has been conducting the negotiation process with the EU for a long time and many factors affect this process for good or bad. Well, which factors do you think are more important in terms of Turkey’s potential role in the EU?
I think inclusion of Turkey in the EU is a matter of European success, a matter of principle and not simply a matter of utility accounting. Still, I can clearly see some important dimensions that are very relevant to Turkey. Turkey’s inclusion in the EU increases the EU’s relationship with the world in terms of geographical location, and on the other hand, it increases its relationship with the Middle East in terms of world peace and prosperity. The participation of Turkey, together with the Western Balkan nations, enriches Europe’s cultural diversity and allows to portray the Europe of the future as a space in which all civilizations from which the continent was born are in dialogue. In economic terms, unlike most EU states, Turkey is a dynamic, growing market in terms of population that has recorded high economic growth rates, offering a new opportunity for the entire EU in terms of economic and social dynamism.
- What do you think are the most important steps you have taken for the success of the HRD OP?
The Operational Program logic has now become a part of the EU partnership mechanism in both member states and candidate countries. This has its own characteristics and requires the establishment of an administrative organization here as in many other countries. People often criticize the EU for its bureaucratic bias, but it really exists. We concentrate our energies in the initial phase of preparing our administration against this administrative burden, and it takes time to start delivering available resources to the final beneficiaries, i.e. people. Right now everyone is focusing on the implementation, the receipt of funds in EU terminology. In my opinion, the construction of the EU funds management has been completed in Turkey. Now we have to fill this building with people, and for that, a big part of the success depends on the Republic of Turkey, public institutions and citizens. Unlike other countries, Turkey has already established its own national system to deal with most of the issues addressed in the HRD OP. Therefore, our work towards the success of the program will largely depend on establishing a dialogue between national and EU methods of addressing certain social problems. In this sense, we are preparing Turkey for accession to the EU with these studies, anticipating the future dialogue with the Union and its member states and an intense relationship between action methodologies. In this respect, I think the team I work with can benefit because we have different backgrounds, come from ‘old’ and ‘new’ member states and can work with our Turkish colleagues to share our experiences on European Programmes.
- Could you tell us about your project experiences (especially Portugal) and the connection of these experiences with the HRD Project in Turkey?
So far, I have worked with EU funds in Portugal, Romania and Bulgaria and I am in Turkey now. Within the framework of all these experiences, we struggled with the same problems: unemployment, poverty, social exclusion. In my own country, we have created our active employment and social inclusion policy, which we already have, largely as a result of our partnership with the EU. To say something about the transfer of experience, I can say that this point is of absolute importance. EU projects can have a full impact on the country only if they are well linked to national policies. Portugal, like Turkey, was a country with serious problems such as low labor force quality and early school leaving. EU programs have had a great impact on the development of our continuing education system and policies to increase school enrollment and school success. In my opinion, the same development can be achieved here with the determination of the Turkish authorities.
- Do you have any examples of special activities or best practices in the HRD Operational Program?
There are different activities under the program and very good practices are emerging, but it is still too early to see a well-drawn picture of the success achieved. In the years we are in, everyone has focused on the creation of the management structure and the purchasing capacity of resources. Several important “technical assistance” projects have been designed to improve administrative capacity and support the expansion of EU-Turkey partnership work. Grants have been handed out to project developers in the field, and now it’s time to identify best practices. I believe that in a year or two everyone will be in a better position to comment on the success (and problems) of this program based on their experience in Turkey.