LONDON – The Western Balkans is a region favourable for investments, it is said at London conference organised by the Financial Times and the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum (CIF) on Tuesday.
Serbia and the region have a bright future, said Serbian PM Ana Brnabić.
“Serbia is making progress every year and we really had record amounts of FDI coming into Serbia in the past couple of years after the structural reforms and after achieving macroeconomic stability back in 2015,” she said.
“Provided that the region remains stable, and we work towards a better-connected, more integrated region, I think the future is bright,” she said.
When asked about Chinese investments in Serbia, she responded Serbia was trying to attract investments from around the world.
Brnabić pointed out that the majority of citizens of Serbia support the European path.
“I believe that the road is more important than the destination, and the road is the accession process. There is no Plan B. Our foreign policy has two strategic goals – one is the EU, and the other is stability in the region,” explained the Prime Minister of Serbia.
Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama said that the region is going through a very interesting time, and the results of reforms are visible.
He said that Albania is working hard to implement the reforms so that the country can attract more investments and provide maximum guarantees and predictability to investors.
At the same time, he added that Albania is aware that it must rely on its natural resources, especially on oil and hydroelectric potentials.
He, however, stressed that for higher growth, it is necessary to exploit the potential of the entire region, which requires better regional cooperation and interaction.
“I am convinced that if we have enough awareness and strength, we can advance in cooperation and open a new chapter, and if we can create some kind of Schengen area for the Western Balkans, then we can use all potentials,” Rama said.
Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev pointed out that the region of the Western Balkans today is different than before.
According to him, many things have happened, and the countries of the region are determined to connect.
He pointed out that it is important to solve the political issues that North Macedonia has solved, first with Bulgaria, and then with Greece, which already has a positive impact.
He said that after signing the Prespa Agreement, trade with Greece rose by 21%. He expressed hope that the EU will send a positive message to the region on this progress.
He also pointed out that investments in North Macedonia have increased significantly over the last seven years.
Zaev said that the common market of the Western Balkans is interesting for investors because it represents a market of 20 million citizens.
He added that the EU does not have to decide on the accession of the countries of the region today, at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg, but urged them to make bold decisions.
“It is not necessary for the EU to decide today whether we will open accession negotiations, but to make decisions that would encourage the region to further progress on the European path,” Zaev said.
EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti said that the region of the Western Balkans is very interesting for investors, and announced that the institution will continue to cooperate with governments and investors from the region.
According to him, the EBRD is determined to do even more and he especially thanked Zaev and Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras for achieving a brave agreement that contributed to the Western Balkans coming back to the focus of foreign investors.
He urged investors to come and exploit the potential that the region offers, adding that the Western Balkans has a stable macroeconomic situation and that it has well-educated citizens.
Linda Van Gelder, World Bank’s Regional Director for Western Balkans, pointed out that the region offers great opportunities to investors, and stressed that investors need to boost the region’s production.
Van Gelder, however, assessed that the current growth of the countries of the region is 4-5% too small for the region to reach fast Western European countries because it requires an increase of seven per cent and more.
She highlighted, in terms of investments coming from China, that it is necessary to be transparent.
President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia
Marko Čadež told investors that there is currently no region that would bring higher profits in the next five to seven years.
He pointed out that money invested in the Western Balkans brings much more profits than anywhere in the world.
“Today, we want to explain why it is good to invest your money and why you need to do business in the Western Balkans,” said Čadež, underlining that the region can work together.