European Western Balkans

Resolution on the €6 billion Growth Plan for the Western Balkans adopted by the European Parliament

Voting session in the European Parliament, 24 April 2024; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG – The European Parliament adopted today the draft legislative resolution on the establishment of the Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans, commonly known as the Growth Plan, which was presented last year by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

European Commission published its proposal for the regulation in November 2023. The European Parliament adopted its amended version of the proposal today, based on the report by Tonino Picula and Karlo Ressler. It will still need the support of the Council of the European Union.

The Facility’s resources will amount to €6 billion for 2024-2027 for two types of support: €2 billion in the form of non-repayable support and €4 billion in the form of concessional loans granted by the European Union.

According to the text proposed by the Commission and amended by the European Parliament, preconditions for the support under the Facility shall be that “the Beneficiaries improve, uphold and respect”, among other conditions, effective democratic mechanisms, including a functioning multi-party parliamentary system, safeguard free and pluralistic media and fight against disinformation, and the rule of law.

European Parliament also added a precondition of the “alignment with the Union’s common foreign and security policy, including the adoption of restrictive measures against Russia”.

In order to receive any support under the Facility, each Beneficiary shall submit to the Commission a Reform Agenda for the duration of the Facility.

According to the Commission’s proposal, Reform Agendas shall reflect the assessments in the most recent Enlargement Package and the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

European Parliament added that the Reform Agendas should also include “the Rule of law report, as well as of the relevant international institutions, including OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission and the relevant reports and resolutions from the European Parliament”.

Last year, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced the annual Rule of Law Reports on EU candidate countries. The reports are already released annually on EU Member States.

The document states that, twice per year, the Beneficiary shall submit a duly justified request for the release of funds in respect of fulfilled payment conditions.

Where the Commission makes a negative assessment of the fulfilment of any conditions as per the indicative timetable, the release of funds corresponding to such conditions shall be withheld.

European Parliament proposed the establishment of a the Audit Board, consisting of independent members appointed by the Commission. It would assist the Commission in fighting mismanagement of Union funding under the Facility and in particular fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest and irregularities.

EP also proposed establishing a “Facility scoreboard” which shall display the progress of the implementation of the reform agendas of the Beneficiaries.

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