BRUSSELS – On 9 October 2017, the Regional Cooperation Council’s (RCC) in cooperation with European Policy Centre (EPC) organised the 2017 edition of the Balkan Barometer (BB), which represents the third instalment in the series of annual public opinion surveys commissioned by the RCC.
The host, Goran Svilanović, RCC Secretary General and Maciej Popowski, Deputy Director-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement discussed together with the panel the perception survey of citizens and business communities on the situation in the region.
Participants of the panel discussion were: Vedran Džihić, Co-Director of Center for Advanced Studies, South East Europe and Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Political Sciences, University of Vienna; Nikica Mojsoska Blazhevski, Dean, School of Business Economics and Management in Skopje; Jesper Johnson, OECD SIGMA; Mark Vasić, Senior Manager for International Regulatory Affairs, Deutsche Telekom AG; Davor Dubravica, Chairperson of the Regional Anti-corruption Initiative; and Orhan Usein, Team Leader of the RCC’s Roma Integration 2020 project. It was moderated by Corina Stratulat from EPC.
Svilanović showed that this year’s Barometer brought further evidence of economic recovery across a number of the region’s larger economies, while unemployment remains the main concern. The perception of the labour market is on stagnation and it has not caught up with the pace of economic recovery. In fact, the number of people outside of the labour market is high across some economies. Compared to 2015, concerns regarding unemployment have remained largely unchanged, whereas anxiety over corruption has increased. As Svilanović said “in 2015, 15% rated corruption as one of the key problem for the region. The number was up to 27% in 2016 and is now at 32%.”
Gligorov showed the main findings including the rising importance of the EU market, the political set up seen as a burden, and an increase of skepticism about the region’s short to medium term accession prospects. In addition, business people continue to struggle with a perceived unfriendly business environment. At the same time, the economic performance has brought an increasingly optimistic outlook for the future.
Svilanović said that the optimistic vision needs “to be solidified through decisive government action”, especially through the implementation of the multi-annual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area prepared by the RCC and approved during the Trieste summit.
Popowski referred to Junker’s speech and the willing of maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans. He also stated that “positive developments provided environment for optimism” and that “it is always good to touch-base with the mind of citizens and business community in the region.”
The Balkan Barometer is an important part of the monitoring framework for the SEE 2020 Strategy, and its findings contribute to the growth in the region. As showed by the findings, the Balkans are becoming more optimistic, although the level of general satisfaction remains higher in the rest of Europe.