Washington, 29 July 2020 (MIA) – The leaders of the Western Balkans six countries, who had an online summit at the invitation of the Atlantic Council of the United States, committed to facilitate and promote concrete steps toward regional economic development in order to stimulate post-COVID-19 economic recovery, the Atlantic Council said Wednesday.
It will also boost the region’s long-term competitiveness, and strengthen its attractiveness for investors.
The leaders emphasized that people in the Western Balkans need to see tangible progress, soon. “The COVID 19 pandemic threatens to cut economic activity in the region drastically, while regional economic integration can raise GDP by more than 10 percent, according to both the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD),” said the Washington-based think tank.
In order to show results immediately, and to reinforce the processes underway, leaders announced that their approach in the regional initiatives will be built on three pillars.
The first one involves implementing the EU’s four freedoms – free movement of goods, services, capital, and people, which is the heart of European integration.
To do so, leaders have tasked their institutions, in coordination with regional organizations, to prepare an action plan structured around the four freedoms, for their adoption at the Sofia Summit planned for November in the framework of the Berlin Process.
The second pillar is so called shovel-ready investment projects.
To that end, they commit to create the necessary conditions to maximize the impact of investments made as part of the COVID response – to help identify projects with regional impact, to create conditions required by regional initiatives, and to remain engaged so that funds are disbursed quickly, transparently, and with greatest impact. This will ensure that the citizens of the region see economic activity take place rapidly.
The third pillar involves tracking implementation. People should know that the Western Balkans Six are doing what its leaders promise. Leaders agreed to implement in the most transparent, efficient, and inclusive manner the necessary measures to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, capital, and persons and to attract investments.
The Regional Cooperation Council has a special role in providing a framework for progress and preparations ahead of the Sofia Summit in November, according to the conclusions from today’s online summit of the Western Balkan leaders.