The Western Balkan Customs Union: A real prospect?

The Western Balkan countries, especially Serbia, have been advocating the formation of a Western Balkan Customs Union between Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, with the view of having faster and cheaper international trade in the region, but also a more competitive appearance on the global market.

It remains to be seen if this idea will come to fruition after the regional leaders and the European Union meet in Trieste in mid-July.

Although the frequent meetings between regional prime ministers have given impetus to the idea of creating the Western Balkan Custom Union, not all of them are enthusiastic about it. However, the business people in the Balkans readily welcome the idea.

Director of the Macedonian Customs Administration, Natasa Krstevska says that the first thing that needs to be done is to equalize all customs clearance rates and procedures, and to establish good cooperation between the customs administrations in the region.

Montenegro is not too fond of the idea of the single customs-free market and having customs clearance rates the same for every regional country. They priority, as they say, is joining the European Union.

“We are not going to say ‘no’ to any initiative if it relates to cooperation and creation of better digital network which is something that we support anyway. We also support having better transporat corridors and routes, better energy connections and cooperation on mutual recognition of diplomas, but we are not going to support anything that would be considered an alternative to the EU market”, the Montenegrin European Affairs Minister, Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic explains.

The Serbian Chamber of Commerce is in favour of any solution that would facilitate, expedite and cut the costs of trading in the region. “A step that would lead towards the customs union entails a much higher level of harmonization between our economic systems, and better implementation of the CEFTA. There are quite a few barriers to overcome here”, Nenad Djurdjevic from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce says.

The customs union would be a more involved arrangement than the CEFTA. However, until it happens, negotiations about removal of non-customs barriers and liberalization of trade in services will continue.

(RTS, 08.10.2017)

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