TIRANA – “The EU remains committed to development of connectivity between the EU enlargement and neighborhood regions, to support and foster stability, security and better conditions for economic development”, said Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement at the 2020 Tirana Connectivity Forum.
During the first day of the Tirana Connectivity Forum, organized by Cooperation and Development Institute in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Hanns Seidel Foundation, Várhelyi talked about the benefits of improving the connectivity in the Western Balkans, as well as between the region and the European Union, and also about EU investments in infrastructure projects in the region.
“Our work not only continues, but we are stepping it up. In October the European Commission will adopt an Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans that will, on one hand support the longer term socioeconomic recovery of the region, and, on the other, its economic convergence with the EU”, Várhelyi added.
He said that they would focus on trans-European transport and energy links and upgrading infrastructure crucial for economic development, and that the green transition and digital transformation would play an important role.
“This is a clear commitment of the European Union to boost the regional competitiveness, but our commitment needs to be complemented by the commitment from the region, and we must work together”, Várhelyi argued.
To ensure maximum benefit is generated from the infrastructure projects, Várhelyi argues that focus has to be on the connectivity measures.
“These require the Western Balkans to adapt their regulatory and legal frameworks, by simplifying border-crossing procedures, prioritizing road safety measures, improving the rail sector, as well as putting in place maintenance plans both for road and rail”, Várhelyi explained.
Várhelyi mentioned Green Lanes, established during the COVID-19 crisis to facilitate the transport and trade of essential goods within the Western Balkans and to the EU.
“This is one of the best examples of regional cooperation and good coordination. Therefore, let me advise you to continue in the same spirit of cooperation in other areas. This is the only way forward towards an economic growth and EU integration”, he emphasized.
The upcoming Economic and Investment Plan of the EU will, according to Várhelyi, boost investments in the area of connectivity in the region. He also argues that “the EU remains committed to development of connectivity between the EU enlargement and neighborhood regions, to support and foster stability, security and better conditions for economic development”.
Várhelyi emphasized that the Western Balkans should take part in the global transport revolution.
“You should not watch the world move, you should seize the opportunity and move with the world”, Várhelyi concluded.