BERLIN – Migration from the Western Balkans is not only about economic opportunities, but is also related to political factors, like corruption, good governance and the rule of law, said German Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during the opening event of the international conference entitled “Young People, Migration, and the Demographic Challenge in the Western Balkans” organised by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Southeast Europe Association, and the Aspen Institute Germany.
“The new Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans focuses on the green and digital economy and supports connectivity. The EUR 9 billion it offers could boost economic transformation in the region. The basis for successful investments are reforms that only your governments can undertake”, Maas emphasized.
Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography, said that it is in the interest of the region, as well as the EU, to work on creating better opportunities for young people to live and work in their countries.
“All European policies and actions aim at empowering young people in the Western Balkans, from investments in transport and energy, to digitalisation and quality education. Young people need new opportunities in their region. Another priority is removing obstacles to youth employment”, said Šuica.
European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi talked about the commitment of the EU to the Western Balkans, and about the importance of creating opportunities for the young people in the region.
“First, we support the creation of jobs, primarily through facilitating access to finance for young entrepreneurs. Secondly, we contribute to improving skills and employability of young people. Thirdly, we support young people to participate in decision making and regional cooperation”, said Várhelyi, and added that these objectives have been mentioned in the newly adopted Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.
Várhelyi said that the Economic and Investment Plan is a substantial investment package whose aim is to make the Western Balkans a developed region with growth and jobs, where capital cities will be connected through road and rail with each other, and with the EU.
“The Investment package is structured around key areas of crucial importance, focusing mainly on connectivity, boosting the economic development and governance of the region. These areas are transport, energy, environment, digital sector and the challenge of helping the youth”, Várhelyi emphasised.
Šuica said that governments in the region should encourage young people to experience living abroad to gain new skills and knowledge, but that they should also create opportunities for young people to return to their home countries.
“Once we create an attractive environment, young people will want to come back. We want to create good economic environment in order to make young people stay in their countries, but if they decide to go abroad to acquire new skills, it is also a benefit to their home countries”, said Šuica.