The Bridging Function

Bridging to Eastern Europe in the field of social welfare

Innovative approaches can provide answers to economic and societal challenges such as demographic change, the current migration wave, and the unequal distribution of wealth. The European Centre provides relevant know-how to governments, international institutions, research institutes and civil society organisations of the wider Europe embracing more than 50 UN member states. A special focus has been put on (potential) EU candidate countries and the countries of the Eastern Partnership with advice for establishing or improving social welfare policies, based on expertise drawn from the European Centre's empirical and comparative cross-national research.

Our aim is to bridge the knowledge and policy evidence between these countries and other countries of the UN European region (e.g. EU Member States). Specifically, the Bridging Function is based on three main pillars:

  • Comparative social policy and welfare research
  • Knowledge transfer and public forum function
  • Policy consultancy

Within these three pillars, the main tasks to be carried out as part of the Bridging Function consist in

  • identifying key issues of social policies in Europe through comparative research and development projects involving partner institutions from different countries
  • transferring know-how through workshops, seminars and policy consultation
  • building capacity involving different public and private stakeholders in policy and research at different governance levels (central, regional and local).

The Bridging Function is based on the premise of close collaboration and participation with the national governments of European countries, the European Union and other relevant stakeholders at the international, European and national levels.


In this context, the European Centre organises 1-3 events annually:

  • 19 September 2016, the Launch event Building bridges in social welfare policy in Eastern Europe’ took place in Vienna. It gathered a large number of researchers, policy makers and practitioners from across the UN Europe region to exchange knowledge and expertise on Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo*, the Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Scholars and experts on innovative approaches in labour market policy and health and social care (long-term care) arrangements in the above-mentioned countries discussed recent research findings and good practice implementation. As a result of the event the Eastern European Social Policy Network, in short EESPN, was launched to facilitate networking between researchers, civil servants of respective ministries and other public authorities as well as civil society organisations, and to intensify exchange and mutual learning in the area of social policies. Further information on the network is provided here.
  • In July 2017, the Bridge Building Summer School on social welfare took place at the premises of the European Centre.
  • On July 12, 2017 the EESPN public forum seeked to provide an assessment of current social policy practices.
  • From 19-20 April 2018, the European Centre organised the Bridge Building Workshop with the European Centre’s National Liaison Officials (NLOs) in Vienna.
  • From 14-15 October 2019, the EESPN event on SDGs priorities & challenges in social welfare policy in Eastern Partnership countries is co-organised with the General Assembly Meeting 2019 of the European Centre.

During the past few years, the European Centre and the Austrian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection have visited countries in the target regions to assess their demand. Memoranda of Understanding were signed to establish and deepen cooperation in the field of social policies. Furthermore, National Liaison Officials (NLOs) were nominated in most countries of the region to serve as a key link between the European Centre and its member states. The NLOs act as intermediaries representing both the interests of their nations within the European Centre as well as those of the European Centre in their countries.


* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.