The European Commission adopted a comprehensive Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which aims to spur the long-term economic recovery of the region, support a green and digital transition, foster regional integration and convergence with the European Union.
As set out by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech of 14 September 2020, “The future of the whole region lies in the EU”.
The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans includes following main topics:
- Good governance as the foundation for sustainable economic growth
- A substantial investment package
- Investing in sustainable transport
- Investing in clean energy
- Greening the Western Balkans – Investing in the environment and climate
- Investing in a digital future
- Boosting the private sector
- Investing in human capital
- Regional economic integration and integration with the EU
Therefore the Plan aims to spur the long-term recovery – backed by a green and digital transition – leading to sustained economic growth, implementation of reforms required to move forward on the EU path, and bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU Single Market. It aims to unleash the untapped economic potential of the region. The Commission proposes to mobilise up to EUR 9 billion of IPA III funding for the period 2021-2027 to support economic convergence with the EU primarily through investments and support to competitiveness and inclusive growth, sustainable connectivity, and the twin green and digital transition. The investment capacity of the region in addition should be boosted by the mobilisation of a new Western Balkans Guarantee facility, with the ambition to potentially raise investments of up to EUR 20 billion.
Better connecting the economies of the Western Balkans – within the region and with the EU – is a priority. This requires a strong commitment from the Western Balkans to implement fundamental reforms, deepening regional economic integration and developing a common regional market on the basis of the EU acquis in order to make the region more attractive investment area.
The European Green Deal offers a blueprint for joint action to tackle the challenges of green transition, climate change, biodiversity loss, and excessive use of resources and pollution, decoupling economic growth from resource use and environmental degradation.
Based on the approach of the European Green Deal, a Staff Working Document setting out a Green Agenda for the Western Balkans accompanies this Communication. It sets out relevant actions and recommendations, including alignment with the EU standards and the acquis.
In the same vein, the Western Balkans should use the EU’s digital strategy as the guiding principle for a human-centric digital transformation of their economies and societies.
In order to support reaching the goals of this Economic and Investment Plan and to ensure the sustainability of investment in the region, the Commission will therefore soon propose a dedicated Agenda for the Western Balkans on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (“Innovation Agenda for the Western Balkans”).
This plan is an integral part of the support to the Western Balkans on the path to the EU. Economic development and implementation of fundamental reforms should be mutually reinforcing and contribute to partner countries meeting the well-established requirements of the accession process.