Online Workshop: Critical Raw Materials potential in the Western Balkans Region

On 25 April 2024, the WB6 CIF, in cooperation with the European Commission (Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and the Directorate-General for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs (DG GROW)), hosted an online workshop titled “Critical Raw Materials Potential in the Western Balkans Region.” The event was attended by over 150 participants, including business representatives, business associations, government representatives from the Western Balkans, representatives from the European Commission, EU Delegations in the Western Balkans, and financial institutions. The focus was on engaging in enlightening discussions about CRMs and their importance in ensuring a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the EU, and exploring the sector’s potential in the Western Balkans region. The event featured four panel discussions.
“The Western Balkans region, similarly to the European Union, is struggling with the challenges of green and digital transition. This entails an ambitious industrial transformation, and in that course, ensuring secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials (CRMs) is of core importance. And this has been the rationale behind the initiative of the European Commission presented through its proposal for a Regulation on a framework to ensure a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the EU, the so-called European Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) with the expected date of entry into force in May 2024.
The key question that we are going to tackle today during the workshop, is what are the potential opportunities for the Western Balkans companies in this process?
This issue is closely related to the New Growth Plan for the western Balkans, – of particular interest to the regional businesses is the First pillar of the New Growth Plan, which focuses on Enhancing economic integration with the European Union’s single market. Amongst the 7 Priority Actions which have been identified with the Plan under this pillar is also the issue of integration into industrial supply chains, by developing strategic partnerships on sustainable raw materials value chains, after an initial focusing on the identification of concrete joint industrial projects. This entails broad perspectives for the economies from the Western Balkans region to embark in such win-win partnerships that the EU is establishing through the CRMA framework“. – explained Tatjana Shterjova Dushkovska, Secretary General of WB6 CIF, on her welcoming opening session.
Maria Asenius, Economic Advisor at the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), emphasized in her welcoming remarks her belief that this workshop will enhance knowledge and inspire participants to pursue viable projects.
Joaquim Nunes de Almeida, Director at the Directorate-General for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs (DG GROW), emphasized the strategic importance of the Western Balkans’ critical raw materials. He stated, ‘The Western Balkans region is currently in the spotlight of DG GROW from a raw materials perspective. The aim of today’s session is to raise awareness about the EU’s raw materials policy and our current initiatives. We are eager to work more closely with you to identify and realize your potential. Developing pipelines of projects in the Western Balkans could be highly beneficial for the EU in terms of accessing critical raw materials. It would be a win-win to integrate your raw material potential with the EU value chains“.

Madalina Ivanica, Deputy Head of Unit, provided attendees with essential insights into the European Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA).
In March 2023, the European Commission presented its proposal for a Regulation on a framework to ensure a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the EU, the so-called European Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) with the expected date of entry into force in May 2024.
European Critical Raw Materials Act is based in four pillars, in order to ensuring a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the Union:
1-Strengthen all stages of the European CRM value chain;
2-Diversify EU CRM imports to reduce strategic dependencies;
3-Improve U capacity to monitor and mitigate risks of disruption to CRM supply;
4.Improve CRM circularity and sustainability.
The European Union is actively setting priorities to enhance its strategic approach towards securing a stable supply of raw materials crucial for its economy. These materials are categorized into Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) and Strategic Raw Materials (SRMs). CRMs are vital for the entire EU economy and are chosen based on factors like supply risk and economic importance. SRMs, a specific subset of CRMs, are critical for key strategic technologies including green technologies, digital transformation, defense, and space. A particular concern with SRMs is the risk of demand outstripping supply.
In response to these challenges, the EU has outlined several benchmarks for 2030 to ensure a more secure supply of SRMs like:
– EU`s extraction capacity cover at least 10% of the EU`s SRM consumption
– EU`s processing capacity cover at least 40% of the EU`s SRM consumption
– EU`s recycling capacity cover at least 25% of the EU`s SRM consumption.
Furthermore, to avoid excessive dependency on external sources, the strategy aims for no more than 65% of the EU’s SRM consumption to come from any single third country.
The European Union is intensifying efforts to strengthen the Strategic Raw Materials (SRMs) value chain through the implementation of strategic projects that cover all aspects, including extraction, processing, recycling, and the production of substitute materials. These projects are carefully selected by the Commission, with advice from the board. The selection process is grounded in several critical criteria: enhancing the security of supply to ensure reliable access to essential materials, ensuring sustainability to minimize environmental impact and promote long-term viability, assessing technical feasibility to confirm projects can be realistically implemented with available technology, and evaluating cross-border benefits within the EU and economic and social advantages in third countries. This strategic approach aims to fortify the EU’s raw material supply chains comprehensively, ensuring they are robust, sustainable, and secure to support the EU’s broader economic and strategic objectives.
To ensure the free movement of Strategic Raw Materials (SRMs), while upholding a high level of environmental protection the CRM Act is focused on Circularity, Sustainable Choices and other regulatory measures.
What potential for critical raw materials does Western Balkans have and projects from the region were showcased among speakers during the second panel.
The Western Balkans have high potential for establishing a sustainable supply chain in rare earth metals and critical goods and materials. The potential for several critical raw materials that the Western Balkans possess was reiterated, including Kithium, Jadar, Magnesium, Kupres, Silver, Zinc, Nickel, Copper, Mercury, Titanium, etc. Within the framework of the European single market, there is a willingness to work closely with the Western Balkans region on many fronts and in many policy areas, including critical raw materials, with a focus not only on extraction but also on developing an entire value chain in the region.

When it comes to funding opportunities in the region, the financial institution provided a framework regarding the financing of projects for CRMs. Emphasizing the importance of developing local value chains and adhering to high environmental and social governance standards, various factors were highlighted as considerations when evaluating projects for financing. These include challenges such as bottlenecks, value chain considerations, geopolitics, evolving regulations, and environmental and social impacts. This reflects the commitment to financing projects that adhere to stringent ESG standards. In conclusion, the discussions emphasized the strategic priority of investing in critical raw materials (CRM) and their value chain for partner countries, including the Western Balkans region. Magdalena Kouneva, speaking for EU financial instruments, highlighted the EU’s commitment to supporting such investments through financial instruments like EU budgetary guarantee programs. These instruments aim to de-risk and mitigate investment risks while ensuring adherence to strict standards, facilitating private sector-led projects, and promoting sustainable development.
What’s next: “We are currently setting up a new facility to help us make progress in developing and integrating sustainable raw materials chains with our partner countries. The facility will cover the entire value chain, as well as the surrounding enabling environment, including skills, training, infrastructure, transport, energy, whatever else may be needed in order to make a project viable on the ground. So, I expect this way that we will become more knowledgeable and also get help organizing events and business missions and also matchmaking activities, be it business-to-business, business-to-government, or government-to-government. And last but not least, we expect this new facility, which will come into force I think within a few weeks, to help us build a pipeline of projects. We expect them to help us evaluate and identify and evaluate concrete raw materials investment projects. in third countries and this way help our development finance institutions and commercial banks and other financial actors and export credit agencies to get input into their pipeline of projects and this way support access to finance and de-risking“ concluded Maria Asenius.
Upcoming CRM Act Event:
The European Critical Raw Material Act (CRMA) was today formally signed by the colegislators (European Council and European Parliament). The Act will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
An Information Day on Strategic Projects is scheduled for April 30th 2024, offering detailed guidance on applying for CRMA projects.
Join the webinar from 14:00 to 16:00 (CET) via the provided WEBEX link


View presentations from the Worshop:

EBA_Status of the EUbattery industry_Western Balkan

European CRM Act

MFE Magnesium For Europe DG GROW DG NEAR Western Balkans

Euromines presentation Critical Raw Materials potential in the Western Balkans region workshop

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