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Investing in connectivity and regional cooperation in Western Balkans

What’s inside EC Progress report 2020 and Economic and Investment Plan for Western Balkan 

On October 6th, the European Commission has published the 2020 Progress reports for the countries of Western Balkans as well as an Economic and Investment Plan for the Region. 

The Economic and Investment Plan foresees a contribution of up to 9 billion EUR to support the competitiveness and inclusive growth in the Western Balkans. The aim is to spurt the long-term recovery with reforms that will bring the Region closer to the EU Single Market. Boosting the economic growth and unleashing the untapped economic potential of the region will be achieved by promoting digitalisation and green initiatives, in order to provide a sustainable framework for a further development of the local and regional economies and their trade relations with the EU. The emphasis is put on the connectivity among the countries and key infrastructure projects. 

The Progress report give an overview of the situation in each of the six countries for the region related to the EU accession processes. The year has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, but the decision of opening accession negotiation with Albania and North Macedonia in March represents a significant step forward. The Commission presented its proposals for the negotiating frameworks in July, including further implementation of reforms in both countries.

The Commission has assessed the state of the negotiations with both Montenegro and Serbia, which should be further discussed at the intergovernmental conferences to set out the way ahead, including opening and closing of chapters. Both countries need to show more significant progress on judiciary and fundamental rights, as well as in the fight against corruption.

In Montenegro, the general elections in August were held in a climate of tension and mistrust, but with no boycott from the political parties. In general, structural weaknesses in areas of public health, employment, social protection and business environment have been highlighted by the COVID-19 outbreak, which had a strong negative impact on the economy which relies heavily on tourism.

In Serbia, the political scene continues to be marked by a strong polarisation. A number of opposition parties continued their parliamentary boycott which also affected the elections in June, which were marked by an overwhelming advantage of the ruling coalition. Serbia has yet to reduce the excessive number of acting senior manager position in its public administration. The country has shown commitment on the normalisation of relations with Kosovo.

Albania continues to maintain complete alignment rate with EU foreign policy. A number of conditions need to be met prior to the first intergovernmental conference, including the adoption of the electoral reform, ensuring transparency in the financing of electoral activities and finalising the establishment of anti-corruption specialised structures. Some of these conditions have already been met, with good progress in the fight against corruption.

North Macedonia made good progress in judiciary reforms and fight against corruption. The Parliamentary elections held in July were assessed well by OSCE, despite the pandemic. Over the reporting period, the country has delivered tangible results in the EU reform agenda. The economy is likely to slide into a recession in 2020, reversing the positive trends in the labour market registered prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership includes a roadmap with 14 key priorities that have partially been addressed despite COVID-19. The lack of harmonisation of legislation across the country and weak institutional cooperation continue to hamper the fight against corruption. Meaningful and systematic consultation with civil society remain to be ensured, as well as the functioning of the market economy which is at an early stage.

As of Kosovo, the report recommends an enhancement of the effort on EU-related reform, after the two changes of government in the past months resulted in limited progress on the advance on the European path. The decision of lifting the 100% tariffs on imports from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has allowed for a restoration in trade with both countries and contributed to resumption of the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

The Progress reports has emphasised the importance of involving regional and local authorities in the EU alignment process and promoted regional integration as a key factor for raising living standards in the region. Cooperation between public and private sector at local and regional level remains paramount to achieve a sustainable development for the region. And the role of the civil society will be to monitor the effectiveness of this dialogue, to protect the interest of all Western Balkan citizens.

ALDA, LDAs and the Balkan Network for Local Democracy are contributing to the EU accession processes by implementation of many activities supporting EU reforms and by promotion of regional cooperation and EU values. 

In the following years we will channel our efforts in three directions:
- Supporting local citizen participation on environmental issues
- Promoting digital transformation in both the public and private sector
- Enhancing the local economic development 

 

For more information: 

2020 Communication on EU enlargement policy

Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans

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Posted: Oct 13, 2020,
Categories: Project, LDA Activities,
Comments: 0,
Author: Svetlana

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