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Skopje hosts the first Western Balkans digital summit

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SKOPJE – At a joint press conference, Minister of Information Society and Administration of Macedonia Damjan Manchevski, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel and Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Goran Svilanović, highlighted the importance of the first Digital Forum. Summit held in Skopje.

The “Western Balkans Digital Summit 6” is confirmation that we are all working towards a single goal. For us, the Western Balkans are part of the European Union, and digital transformation will help us intensify cooperation. Digital transformation is changing our lives, which has also been recognized by politicians. As part of the recent enlargement strategy to the Western Balkan countries, digitalization is high on the political agenda. We have important projects ahead of us, such as reducing roaming rates and cybersecurity,” underlined Commissioner Gabriel.

“Digital transformation is essential to improve the quality of life of citizens,” said RCC Secretary General Svilanović. He stressed that the benefits of digitalization are felt in all aspects of life, including in reducing corruption.

“It is a chance for the Western Balkans to be part of the EU, whatever the political agenda. This event is a rare opportunity to define common goals,” said Svilanović.

Minister Manchevski, as host of the Digital Summit, spoke about the message sent by the organization of this event.

“We, all Balkan countries, are finally united and joining forces to do more for our citizens. Despite all the political issues, despite all the historical challenges, we are all together today, as we will meet again in a month in Sofia, then in London, to affirm that the Western Balkan countries are united in digital transformation , as well as that we have the will, dedication and cooperation to jointly embrace change. This is a historic opportunity for the Western Balkans to lead by example. A good example. Not like how we were recognized in the past. We are already working together,” Minister Manchevski underlined.

“My expectations for this Summit are high. I expect a lot of good news for our citizens. I expect roaming prices in the region and with the EU to be significantly reduced. I hope to reach agreement on a common approach to improving access to high-speed Internet. I think the Western Balkans will be the next global ICT destination. I hope our young people will be leaders in developing digital skills and stay in their home countries. I hope to mutually recognize digital certificates. I hope that the Balkans will be integrated into the EU digitally much faster than politically. But not only do I hope, but I also sincerely believe, that this objective will be achieved,” declared Minister Manchevski, wishing the participants a productive Digital Summit.

The “Western Balkans Digital Summit 6” is part of the Berlin Process and aims at regional coordination for the region’s accession to the EU. The digital integration component foresees that the “Western Balkans Digital Summit 6” will be organized once a year, which is of great importance for Macedonia as the country that will be the first host of the summit.

Later, a working lunch was organized as part of the agenda of the first day of the “Western Balkans Digital Summit”, attended by the Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia Zoran Zaev, President of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Zveidić, Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Albania, Senida Mesi, Ministers of the Governments of the Western Balkan Countries, Commissioners responsible for policy European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations and Digital Economy and Society, Johannes Hahn and Mariya Gabriel, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Thomas Bareiß, representatives of the European Investment Bank and representatives of the Regional Cooperation Council.

Western Balkans Digital Summit 2018, Skopje; Photo Western Balkans Digital Summit 2018 Skopje

The central theme discussed during the working lunch was the importance of the integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU Digital Single Market.

During the discussions, Prime Minister Zaev highlighted the important role of the “Western Balkans Digital Summit” and the presentation of the study “Impact of digitalization on the prosperity of the Western Balkans”, as an important stimulus for the countries regions to deepen cooperation and work more intensively on digital transformation, which should contribute to GDP growth, increased investment in the regions, the development of start-ups and job creation.

The initiative for the institutionalization of a business-friendly environment – ​​BFE, as a multilateral organization, which will be supported by the governments of the region, was also discussed during the working lunch.

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