European Commission adopted a new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, with the aim of bringing some of the benefits of membership to the region in advance of accession, boost economic growth and accelerate much needed socio-economic convergence. The objective should be to enable partners to step up reforms and investments to significantly accelerate the speed of the enlargement process and the growth of their economies. For this, a new €6 billion Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans has been proposed for the period 2024-2027. Payments will happen only after the fulfilment of agreed reforms. Consultations have taken place at political and expert level with a range of stakeholders. Business across the region have been consulted through dialogue with the Western Balkan 6 Chamber Investment Forum.
The new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is based on four pillars, aimed at:
- Enhancing economic integration with the European Union’s single market, subject to the Western Balkans aligning with single market rules and opening the relevant sectors and areas to all their neighbours at the same time, in line with the Common Regional Market. Seven priority actions are suggested:
- Free movement of goods;
- Free movement of services and workers;
- Access to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA);
- Facilitation of Road transport;
- Integration and de-carbonisation of Energy markets;
- Digital Single Market;
- Integration into industrial supply chains
- Boosting economic integration within the Western Balkans through the Common Regional Market, based on EU rules and standards, which could potentially add 10% to their economies;
- Accelerating fundamental reforms, including on the fundamentals cluster, supporting the Western Balkans’ path towards EU membership, improving sustainable economic growth including through attracting foreign investments and strengthening regional stability;
- Increasing financial assistance to support the reforms through a Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans for the period 2024-2027, a proposal for a new instrument worth €6 billion, consisting of €2 billion in grants and €4 billion in concessional loans, with payment conditioned on the Western Balkans’ partners fulfilling specific socio-economic and fundamental reforms.
As part of the Growth Plan, every Western Balkan partner will be invited to prepare a Reform Agenda based on existing recommendations including from the annual Enlargement Package and the countries’ Economic Reform Programmes (ERP). This Reform Agenda will be consulted with, assessed and adopted by the Commission.
It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to examine the proposal for the Facility in the framework of the MFF mid-term review package. Once adopted, the six Western Balkans partners will be invited to submit their individual reform agendas laying out the socio-economic and fundamental reforms they will undertake to spur growth and convergence under the Growth Plan during the period of 2024 – 2027.