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European Western Balkans
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Western Balkans summit in Kotor: Growth Plan will bring results in the region

Photo: Government of Montenegro

KOTOR – Leaders of the Western Balkans and representatives from EU and the USA met on Thursday at the Summit in Kotor to discuss the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans and the continuation of EU path of the Western Balkan countries. The Summit is organised under the slogan “One region, common vision”. Before leaders meeting, a meeting of ministers of European affairs and finance, representatives of the European Commission and partner organisations was held on Wednesday.

The Summit was opened by Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milojko Spajić, who emphasised commitment of the Montenegrin government to enhancing prosperity. Spajić highlighted significance of EU support for infrastructure development, adding that this support must be sustained and increased under the auspices of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans.

“I invite you to seize this historic opportunity presented to the Western Balkans, to perceive Growth Plan as a part of broader vision for a better future for the region and the EU as a whole”, Spajić said.

EU Enlargement Commissioner said before the Summit that leaders will discuss three new priorities for accession to the EU Single Market, within the framework of the EU Growth Plan for the Western Balkans. As he explained on X, these priorities include critical medicines alliance, EU digital identity wallet, and agreements on conformity assessment.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien stated that the priority of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is to create a unified money market, reduce costs, facilitate market movement, and create more jobs. “The messages of the Plan are clear to every participant – do your job and do not expect others to do something first so that you can do yours,” O’Brien said.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama assessed that Western Balkans made a progress since last meeting in Skopje, adding that countries prepared reform plans. “We are ready”, Rama said.

The President of BiH Council of Ministers, Borjana Krišto, stated that all peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina are united in the common European path. “I hope that together, in the context of regional cooperation, we will succeed in achieving our common goals”, Krišto said.

Photo: Government of Montenegro

Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia, said that EU Growth Plan for the Western Balkans will bring positive results in the region. “We appreciate and we are grateful for the money, but more important than the money are the structural reforms we must implement, and we greatly appreciate that”, Vučić said.

However, he believes that countries in the region will not join the EU before Ukraine. “When we will join the European Union, whether we will join together with Ukraine, that is another issue. You have your opinion, but my intelligence tells me that I am right. And of course, this is something currently happening. We will probably wait for another six years, which is also fine. The EU may be so popular in your countries, it is not so popular in my country as we are not so popular, even though we are the largest part of this region. We will never speak ill of the importance of this initiative,” Vučić said.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, said that war in Ukraine is a key threat to the stability of the EU. He stated that Kosovo is resolute in pro-European commitment and emphasised that Kosovo’s progress must be respected.

In November last year, the European Commission presented the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, an economic program aimed at reducing the socio-economic gap between EU member states and the Western Balkans, further integration countries of the region within the framework of the Common Regional Market (CRM) and preparing for the region’s inclusion in the EU single market. For this purpose, the EU will allocate 6 billion euros, of which two billion will be in the form of grants and four of loans with favourable terms. The EU’s goal is to double Western Balkan economies over the next ten years.

The condition for receiving funds is the implementation of reforms, primarily in the areas of democratic mechanisms, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. The Plan covers the period from 2024 to 2027 and envisages that each government of the Western Balkans sextet will receive a certain amount of money every six months, depending on the reforms implemented during that period.

For Serbia and Kosovo, there is also a precondition – “constructive engagement in the normalization of relations to fully implement all obligations arising from the Agreement on the path to normalization and its Implementation Annex from Ohrid, as well as from all previous agreements reached in the Brussels dialogue.”

 

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