The European Commission has presented a 9-billion-euro-worth economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans which is intended to help the region move forward on its path to the EU membership and forge closer links between its economies.
According to the plan, six of the nine million euro will be directed towards the transport, energy, digitalization, agriculture, health care and education sectors in all the countries of the region. Another 1.5 billion is earmarked for the private sector and the remaining 1.5 billion for education.
The Commission said that the coronavirus pandemic had a massively disruptive effect on the economies of the region which were already lagging behind in terms of economic convergence with the EU and added that the plan was intended to spur long-term recovery which would lead to sustained economic growth.
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It said that the countries of the region had to implement reforms in order to move forward and draw closer to the EU Single Market. The plan is intended to unleash the untapped economic potential of the region and the significant scope for increased intra-regional economic cooperation and trade.
The Commission also said that it would mobilize up to nine billion euro from IPA funds for the 2021-2027 period to support economic convergence with the EU primarily through investments and support to competitiveness and inclusive growth, sustainable connectivity, and the twin green and digital transition. It added that a new Western Balkans Guarantee facility should be put in place which could potentially raise investments of up to 20 billion euro.
The Commission warned of poor governance and limited progress in dealing with shortcomings in rule of law and the fight against corruption. It said that regional and cooperation with the EU are essential in addressing fraud, corruption, money laundering, terrorism, extremism, trafficking in arms and people and smuggling migrants.
This post is also available in: Italiano