Meeting of WB leaders – The region could grow by 10%

Leaders of the Western Balkans and representatives from the EU and the USA met on Thursday at the Summit in Kotor to discuss the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans and the continuation of the EU path of the Western Balkan countries. The Summit is organised under the slogan “One Region, Common Vision”.

The Summit was opened by Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milojko Spajić, who said: “I invite you to seize this historic opportunity presented to the Western Balkans, to perceive Growth Plan as a part of the broader vision for a better future for the region and the EU as a whole”, Spajić said.

EU Enlargement Commissioner said before the Summit that leaders will discuss three new priorities for accession to the EU Single Market, within the framework of the EU Growth Plan for the Western Balkans. As he explained on X, these priorities include critical medicines alliance, EU digital identity wallet, and agreements on conformity assessment.

Assistant US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, James O’Brien, stated that the priority of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is to create a unified money market, reduce costs, facilitate market movement, and create more jobs. “The messages of the Plan are clear to every participant – do your job and do not expect others to do something first so that you can do yours,” O’Brien said.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama assessed that Western Balkans made progress since the last meeting in Skopje, adding that countries prepared reform plans. “We are ready”, Rama said.

Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia, said that the EU Growth Plan for the Western Balkans will bring positive results in the region. “We appreciate and we are grateful for the money, but more important than the money are the structural reforms we must implement, and we greatly appreciate that”, Vučić said.

However, he believes that countries in the region will not join the EU before Ukraine. “When we will join the European Union, whether we will join together with Ukraine, that is another issue. You have your opinion, but my intelligence tells me that I am right. And of course, this is something currently happening. We will probably wait for another six years, which is also fine. The EU may be so popular in your countries, it is not so popular in my country as we are not so popular, even though we are the largest part of this region. We will never speak ill of the importance of this initiative,” Vučić said.

“Given the various convergence scenarios that put our region on 24 to 72 years of convergence approximation journeys, we must not waste a single growth prospect. We cannot establish a common market in the Western Balkans if the human capital is left aside. Fostering labour mobility in our region could potentially add a significant 1.3% to the region’s GDP by 2025 and generate 80,000 new jobs. A favourable and competitive (business) environment can increase annual growth by 2%, attract up to 6.5% more investments and boost the job growth rate by 1% annually, while increasing SME productivity by between 5% and 10%. The results of the implementation of the current common regional market are pointing to the yet untapped economic integration potential that can still be unleashed so that 10% growth can be added to our economies”, said the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Majlinda Bregu.

(eKapija, 16.05.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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