SKOPJE – We are working hard to help the region with new opportunities for business and citizens, and to fulfil the promise of bringing the Western Balkans into the EU, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi in his address for the Skopje Economic Forum.
“To help the Western Balkans to tackle the energy crises and to support the region, we have adopted a EUR 1 billion energy support package during the last EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana. We are already disbursing half of the package to the authorities: EUR 500 million to mitigate the impact of high energy prices for small and medium-sized enterprises and to keep energy prices affordable for vulnerable households”, Olivér Várhelyi said.
He added that the EU has additional funds available to support diversification of energy sources and routes away from Russia. According to him, electricity and gas interconnections towards alternative supplies and a new LNG terminal on the Adriatic Sea will be financed fully by the EU.
“These investments would bring more, reliable and greener energy to the Western Balkans and have the potential to turn the Western Balkans into the new energy entry point for Europe”, he added.
We are also supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, such as the refurbishment of old blocks of flats to reduce energy consumption and bring down energy bills for households.
He stressed that building a Common Regional Market is essential to unleash the full potential of the Economic and Investment Plan.
“We saw at the Berlin process summit last year a significant breakthrough in the Common Regional Market, where leaders of the Western Balkans signed three mobility agreements. It is now important to ratify and implement these three agreements, so that citizens can travel, work and study freely across the region, as we can within the EU”, Várhelyi concluded.