TIRANA, September 26 – “It is encouraging to see a stronger commitment within the EU and greater recognition of the Western Balkans’ significance for the European Union. The EU needs the Western Balkans just as much as the Western Balkans needs the EU.”
This was declared by Prime Minister Edi Rama in his speech at the Ministerial Forum titled “Common Regional Market – a Step towards the EU Single Market” which was held in the framework of the Berlin Process in Tirana on Tuesday.
Rama highlighted the importance of regional cooperation for integrating the Western Balkans into the European Union’s economic sphere at the Ministerial Forum which was attended by more than 20 high-level delegations of Economy Ministers from the Uninon and the region.
“By working together, we can achieve more in a common market. It’s time to think beyond our current boundaries. This is precisely what we aim to accomplish with this summit, and it reflects the sentiment we’re hearing in our discussions with our allies,” said Rama who disclosed that he had a ‘very productive’ conversation with French Economy Minister, which underscores the changing landscape and would have been unimaginable five years ago.
According to him, the removal of trade barriers between countries has benefited 6,000 trading companies. “We have witnessed 6,000 trading companies reaping the rewards of trade promotion initiatives. The elimination of all non-tariff barriers, coupled with collaborative events involving trading companies, has especially facilitated access to the EU market. Our collective efforts are aimed at tangible benefits on the ground, providing more advantages for people who require the freedom to move and for companies seeking to transport their goods,” Rama said.
President of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Board in the Western Balkans for the EU Ines Muçostepa disclosed that 6,000 companies in the Western Balkans are fully prepared and have met the necessary criteria to invest in the European Union.
Muçostepa stressed that the EU should extend assistance to the Western Balkans in light of the challenges posed by the pandemic, the energy crisis, and the situation in Ukraine. “The pandemic, energy crisis, and the conflict in Ukraine have had an impact on the regional economy, leading to some nations being excluded from the market. Therefore, it is imperative that the Western Balkans receive assistance, given their wealth and the natural resources that can support new projects.”
France’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs Olivier Becht stressed the need for swift progress in the plan for Europe’s growth. Becht also underscored the necessity of expediting relations between the Western Balkans and EU member states.
“We must accelerate this process. It necessitates more economic collaboration and integration throughout the region. Two aspects are interlinked; larger companies often lack the resources to explore new markets. Our primary objective is to expedite connections between the Western Balkans and EU nations. This will alleviate challenges for the private sector and accelerate the EU accession process,” Becht said.
The Berlin process whose 2023 annual Summit will be held in Tirana on September 16 was set up in 2014 as a platform for high-level cooperation between high official representatives of the Western Balkan Six (WB6), consisting of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, and their peers in Berlin Process host countries. The Process also involves the EU institutions, international financial institutions and the region’s civil society, the Regional Youth Cooperation Office RYCO and businesses. Besides Tuesday’s Ministerial Forum, other events are included on the pre-Summit agenda. /argumentum.al