Pristina – The final conference of the ‘EU Support to the WB6 CIF’ project

Mapping of suppliers from the WB6 region in selected industries, development of databases aimed at providing the necessary information to SME easing their access to markets, providing technical assistance to SMEs easing their access to finance and integration in the global supply chains, organization of networking events for SMEs from the region (joint participation at fairs and business events, investment conferences) and events aimed at increasing the capacities of regional SMEs (info days and trainings), all aiming at supporting the integration of WB6 SMEs in the regional and global supply chains…..These are just some of the benefits from the project ‘EU Support to the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum’ for companies in the Western Balkans. The project, worth over 2.8 million euros, launched on 19 December 2019, and it will officially run until 30 June 2023. Increasing cross-border business cooperation in the Western Balkans and supporting private sector development through promoting access to finance are its key objectives.
Over the past three years, a large number of free services or activities were developed in the project involving more than 6,500 companies from all six economies of the Western Balkans. The main objectives of the project were to increase cross-border business cooperation in the Western Balkans by improving the regional legal and policy framework and facilitating direct cooperation through support services provided by the chambers of commerce. It also aimed to support private sector development by promoting access to finance for various types of businesses and market niches. Additionally, support services were provided to enhance competitiveness, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, pointed out the conference participants.
At the final conference of the ‘EU Support to the WB6 CIF’ project in Prishtina, organized by the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6 CIF), members of the CIF Management Board called on the European Union to ensure the citizens and economies of the region enjoy the four fundamental freedoms that underpin the EU – free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. They assessed that this process could be completed in less than two years.
The European Commission – represented by Mr Thomas Hagleitner, thanked the project team for their excellent cooperation and welcomed the work achieved by the WB6 CIF to promote the benefits and opportunities of regional economic integration. As the voice of business in the Western Balkans, the role of WB6 CIF is now more important than ever. With a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities involved, WB6 CIF can help deepen the region’s economic integration – through the Common Regional Market and identify areas to bring the region closer to the EU’s Single Market.
Marko Čadež, President of the Managing Board from 2017-2022 and President of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia stated that the economies of the Western Balkans have met the most important business standards and are ready to become part the European single market. He reminded that there were suspicions since the establishment of the CIF, both in the region and in the international community. However, he emphasized that entrepreneurs want to create a future based on common interests rather than differences.
Speaking about the results of the project, financed by the European Union with over 2.8 million euros, Čadež mentioned that during the project, more than 6,000 companies from the six economies of the Western Balkans have undergone various types of training, education, and seminars.
“These companies are now successful and can freely market their products in the EU and worldwide,” he added.
Speaking at the conference the President of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce Lulzim Rafuna stated that he believes this mechanism of economic cooperation will contribute to the preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans.
“We need cooperation because through economic development, we influence the social development of our citizens. They will have higher social standards and a better life. As a Chamber Investment Forum, we continuously strive to overcome business obstacles and eliminate them. We don’t wait for government actions; instead, we exert positive pressure on them,” emphasized Rafuna.
“Instead of waiting for the politicians from the region to see the broader vision that without cooperation in the Western Balkans there is no integration in the European Union and to start working on implementing the Common Regional Market Action Plan, instead of waiting to see what will happen with the integration processes of the six WB economies, instead of waiting for an agreement to be ratified, or for some negotiations to be completed, we have been working directly with the companies for all this time and have delivered dozens of services that benefit them directly- and most importantly, we have managed to implement that jointly for the whole region”, was the message shared on behalf of Branko Azeski, president of the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia and deputy-Chairman of WB6 CIF.
Mirko Bošković, the Deputy President of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that investments, new jobs, and political stability are crucial to retain the youth in all countries of the region.
He also emphasized that the chambers of commerce in the region have proven that successful cooperation is possible.
“The conferences organized in Ljubljana, Belgrade, and Hanover demonstrated that the WB region is rich in natural potentials, and a large majority of them remain untapped, which creates opportunities for new investments,” he highlighted.
Nikola Vujović, Vice President of the Chamber of Economy of Montenegro, stated that this project provides a good foundation for connecting the economies of the regional countries, both among themselves and with the EU.
“I expect that in the future period, we will have similar initiatives with the support of the European Commission, as was the case with this project. All of this means better preparation of our companies for our common goal, which is to be market-ready,” he said.
Representatives from the companies CACTTUS, 13. Jul-Plantaze, OPG JUKIC, Kosova Wine and Adoro Chocolate, which have been involved in different services from the WB6 CIF in this project, have showcased that the processes raised within the WB6 CIF have managed to provide direct, tangible and very practical support to the companies throughout the region by enhancing their capacities to enter new markets, to improve their intraregional networking, to grasp the possibilities in this fast changing global landscape.

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