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EU unlocks single market access for Western Balkans in exchange for reforms

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EU leaders have offered the Western Balkans access to the single market, subject to rapid reforms, marking an important step towards integration while providing a considerable economic incentive in the context of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.

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European Union Leaders unveiled a growth plan for the six Western Balkan countries, offering them access to parts of the EU’s single market in exchange for substantial reforms, as a stepping stone to full EU membership.

This historic announcement took place during the annual Berlin Process. summit held in Tirana, Albania.

The countries in the region are Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

THE meeting Present were the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the European Council Charles Michel, as well as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Conditional investment and reform requirement

The EU single market, made up of the 27 EU Member States, facilitates the free movement of goods, services, capital and people within its borders.

The EU has required Western Balkan countries to reform their economies and political institutions before joining, notably by improving the regulatory structure of businessstruggle Corruption and eradicate organized crime.

Von der Leyen said on Monday that the EU’s new growth plan for these countries could allow them to access parts of the EU single market on a case-by-case basis in exchange for demonstrated reforms.

Countries could join the EU market in the areas of goods and services, road transport, energy, electricity, customs cooperation, e-commerce and cashless payments, “to name a few”, a said von der Leyen.

The new growth plan

Countries that quickly comply with the requested reforms will in turn receive investments, von der Leyen said. The Commission chief said EU leaders had proposed a budget of 6 billion euros. investment overall, 2 billion euros in grants and 4 billion euros in loans.

“The funds will be released once the reforms are implemented. So it’s conditional,” von der Leyen said at the press conference after the summit.

The EU has already mobilized 16 billion euros to invest in the region, out of the 30 billion promised three years ago.

“We must harness the potential of the Western Balkans and bring it closer to the European single market,” von der Leyen said. By failing to advance reforms, “the only person you can block is yourself,” she said.

A promising way forward

The six Western Balkan countries are at different stages of integration into the bloc. Serbia and Montenegro launched accession negotiations a few years ago, followed by Albania and Macedonia last year, while Bosnia and Kosovo have only begun the first stage of the accession process. ‘integration.

Russiait’s war in Ukraine has put the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU at the top of the 27-nation bloc’s agenda.

The EU is trying to restart the entire enlargement process, which has been stalled since 2013, when Croatia became the last country to join.

To learn more about the EU single market, watch the video above

Video Editor • Joanna Adhem

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