TIRANA – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented new details of the European Union’s growth plan for the Western Balkans at the Berlin Process Summit held today in Tirana . The plan will include 2 billion euros in grants and 4 billion euros in loans, but the funds will be reduced once the reforms are implemented.
Von der Leyen spoke about the new growth plan, which she first announced in May, during a press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. She said the growth plan could, if implemented, double the size of Western Balkan economies by the end of the decade.
“It is based on four pillars, the first being the inclusion of the Western Balkans in the European single market in seven key areas, for example e-commerce, cashless payments, road transport, electricity and roaming. The second pillar is that the Western Balkans themselves must complete their common regional market, which would increase the region’s GDP by 10%,” said the Commission President.
The third pillar, she added, concerns reforms and compliance with necessary EU standards, there must be a level playing field between businesses in the Union and the region. The fourth pillar concerns increased EU funding.
“If reform efforts are carried out, they will be offset by an increase in European funding for investment. We proposed an investment program of 6 billion euros, made up of 2 billion euros in grants and 4 billion euros in loans. The same logic applies in our Next Generation EU package for Member States – investments and reforms; funding will be eased once the reforms are implemented,” von der Leyen said.
Asked about the region’s EU membership by 2030, von der Leyen stressed that enlargement is a process based on merit and there should be no rigid date.
“If someone wants to enter the EU on this date without reforms, this will never be acceptable to the member states, nor is it acceptable for someone to wait until accession takes place on a date precise, because this would mean that there will be no enlargement in the next European Union. mandate of the Commission, which is unacceptable,” she said.
In his speech, German Chancellor Scholz highlighted that this was the first time that a Berlin Process summit had taken place in a Western Balkan country. He also highlighted that today an agreement on mutual recognition of professional qualifications was signed between the Western Balkan countries, following the other three mobilization agreements signed last year.
Scholz also mentioned several other topics for discussion at the summit.
“Climate change also has considerable consequences for the Western Balkans. Through a regional partnership between Germany and the Western Balkans, we will financially support renewable energy to the tune of 1.5 billion euros by 2030,” said Scholz.
He also announced additional funding from the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, as well as €73 million for a new project to integrate Albania into renewable energy.
The German Chancellor described the Berlin process as a success and announced the next summit of the initiative in Germany as part of the 10th anniversary of the process.
Asked about relations between Kosovo and Serbia, Scholz said that there is a clear determination of the German government, the EU and the United States to resolve the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo and pave the way for a bright future for both countries as members of the EU. He condemned the attack on Kosovo police on September 24 and called it an “attack on institutions and people.”
“The EU and Germany have a clear position on this. We hope that the results of the investigation will be carried out by the Kosovo authorities and it would be good if the Serbian authorities cooperate with them. It would be beneficial if that happened,” Scholz said.
Speaking about the future of dialogue, Scholz added that several agreements between Kosovo and Serbia have already been concluded and their implementation is necessary, including the Association/Community of Northern Serbian Municipalities.