The European Union’s strategy for the Western Balkans has opened the possibility of membership for Serbia and Montenegro by 2025. But can the domestic economy catch up to the average economic development indicators in the Union?
Estimates have shown that Serbia and the region need more investments and faster growth in order to narrow the gap between them and the EU. Does political support for membership translate into more financial assistance? Commissioner Hahn says it will be the same at first, but with different priorities.
“There will be no increase in financial aid in absolute terms, but priorities will be shifted and altered, and, in fact, there will be more money available for economic development. For example, we will provide loans and guarantees for the private sector,” says the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn.
Serbia and the region need much more significant economic assistance from the EU to catch up with the European average in the near future, analysts warn. The World Bank has estimated that it will take the Western Balkans 60 years to reach the average economic growth rate in the EU.
If the economic growth was six percent annually, the region would approach the EU’s average by 2030, said Dusan Rajic of the German Institute for Foreign Policy and Security. “The regional countries cannot achieve this by themselves”, Rajic adds.
The analysis of the German Institute for Foreign Policy and Security suggests that Serbia and others should already be granted access to non-refundable structural funds of the European Union only available to member states, from which Croatia, for example, will receive 12 billion EUR in the next three years.
Rajic says that pre-accession IPA funds can be expanded through investments in infrastructure – primarily transport, transport, energy, education and health, science and development. “That’s where the entire region lags behind the rest of the continent,” Dusan Rajic said.
The EU strategy foresees that in the years before EU accession, Serbia can expect a significant increase in pre-accession grants, which now stand at around 200 million EUR a year, in order to prepare for the efficient use of much higher amounts currently available to the Member States.
This post is also available in: Italiano