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Western Balkan leaders confirm commitment to EU Growth Plan in a joint statement from Skopje

Informal leader's meeting in Skopje, 21 January 2024; Photo: X / @albinkurti

SKOPJE – Western Balkan leaders met today in Skopje for a conference titled “The Growth Plan: Western Balkans Meets EU”. In joint conclusions, they reaffirmed their commitment to the EU Growth Plan for the region, which was adopted in November, and continued work on the Common Regional Market based on EU standards.

In November, the European Commission adopted a new €6 billion Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans for the period 2024-2027. Payments will happen only after the fulfilment of agreed reforms.

Prime Minister of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovačevski hosted President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Montenegro Milojko Spajić and Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti.

Gert Jan Koopman, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations and James O’Brien, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs also participated.

“Recognizing the intricate geopolitical landscape characterized by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and ongoing crises in the Middle East, we, the Leaders of the Western Balkans Six underscore the paramount significance of cooperation within the region and integration with the European Union and commit to the advancement of the four freedoms of movement (capital, goods, services, people) for all our citizens”, the conclusions read.

The leaders noted that the Western Balkans’ new Growth Plan represents a new opportunity to promote the economic and social convergence of the region with the European Union as a tool to advance in the accession process and committed to seizing the opportunities presented by the Growth Plan.

“We have started our preparations for the Growth Plan’s implementation, including the development of Strategic reform agendas guiding actions and investments over the next four years”, the statement reads.

The leaders also stated that they, as a region, will concentrate their efforts on promoting regional economic integration through the Common Regional Market based on EU rules and standards while at the same time advancing the opening up of the regional market to the EU Single Market.

“The region is ready to take additional decisive actions to finalize transformation of the Common Regional Market into a reality. It appreciates the EU’s support in the process and is dedicated to the preparation for an ambitious successor to the current CRM Action Plan, emphasizing the significance of collaboration with the Regional Cooperation Council, CEFTA, and the Energy Community and Transport Community, as well as with WB6 Chamber Investment Forum in the process”, the statement continues.

The collaboration of the leaders, according to the conclusions, will consist of speeding up the common endeavours in facilitating regional trade, reducing the negative impact of non-tariff measures, opening up the service sector and in facilitating the movement of workers

“Recognizing the concerted efforts of both the Western Balkans and the EU to bring the region into the EU, we firmly believe that the Reform and Growth Facility will tangibly advance the accession process for all our citizens and contribute to the narrowing of the social and economic gap of the region, while creating leverage for implementation of market-oriented and growth generating reforms”, the leaders concluded.

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