BRUSSELS – Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Economy and Ministers of Transport of the Western Balkans together with their counterparts from several EU Member States and high-level EU representatives discussed key areas of regional cooperation, and set out concrete measures to better connect the region’s infrastructures, economies and people on the Trieste Summit today.
Following the Summit HR/VP Federica Mogherini said there is a clear interest of the Western Balkans to be more integrated in the EU and that once the right reforms are passed, the EU will welcome the region.
Mogherini also added that many new practical projects were confirmed, among them the Transport Community Treaty, which was a step for opening new connections. Therefore, Mogherini thinks this was a “very successful summit.”
One of the key success of today’s Summit was signing the Transport Community Treaty with 5 Western Balkans states – Albania, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only country of the Western Balkans which did not signed the Treaty, and it was called to sign as soon as possible.
The Transport Community Treaty will help put into action reforms affecting people’s everyday lives, for instance in the field of road safety. By providing more stability, it will also attract new investors in the region and add to its economic growth.
Regarding the Connectivity Agenda, the European Commission announced a substantial connectivity package, totalling €194 million in grants, and leveraging investments of €500 million, for seven new regional projects to improve transport and energy links within the Western Balkans and with the EU.
The Western Balkans leaders also agreed on an action plan to develop a Regional Economic Area to consolidate a market of some 20 million people, and so attract investment and generate growth and jobs. The Commission will support the implementation of this initiative with a package of €7 million for the improvement of the investment climate, smart specialisation strategies and the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum.
On support for the private sector, the European Commission announced €48 million of additional EU funding for the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (EDIF), which is expected to leverage some €250 million for the companies in the region.
As for the EU-Western Balkans Youth Forum, it has brought together more than 100 young leaders and representatives of youth organisations from the Western Balkans and the EU to debate mobility, inclusion, entrepreneurship and youth participation.
The conclusions of the Forum were presented at the Summit itself, and will also serve as a basis for the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) to develop its work programme.
Today’s meeting was part of the “Berlin process”, an initiative for stronger regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. The participants included EU Member States Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia and the United Kingdom. All participants also expressed great satisfaction with the prospect of further high-level events in the region itself.