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Vienna Economic Forum: Business must lead Western Balkans policy

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SOFIA – The Western Balkans are ready and willing to cooperate more between countries in the region and with the EU, in order to provide a better life for their citizens, the Sofia conference said today. Talks 2018”, organized by the European Union. Vienna Economic Forum in Sofia.

At this official side event to the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, the prime ministers of the Western Balkans, with the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina, met to discuss possibilities for strengthening the region’s economic integration, the connectivity program being one of the priorities of the Bulgarian presidency but also the main theme of yesterday’s summit.

Find out more about the EU-Western Balkans summit which took place on May 17 here.

Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Ramabelieves that the region has made notable progress in recent years regarding economic investments in the Balkans and the region’s connectivity agenda.

“We are seeing more expressions of interest in investment in the region. Five years ago, this was absolutely impossible to imagine. I think this is a trend that will only grow positively,” Rama said.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic agreed that the EU had brought the region closer together than ever before. She explained that economic prosperity comes with much-needed peace in the Balkans. Since the connectivity agenda constitutes a bridge between politics and business, the Serbian Prime Minister believes that this should be the way forward to remove obstacles on the region’s path to the EU.

“Business must lead and politics must follow – it is simpler and more pragmatic, and it finds a way to break down barriers,” Brnabić said.

As an example, she cited a situation in which Serbian businessmen went to participate in a business event in Pristina, despite the problems Serbia has with Kosovo.

Considering that the EU and the region must work together, the Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev ” agrees, emphasizing that the Western Balkans are no longer “a temporary bomb, but a part of Europe” and that the EU has worked very hard to connect the region in various ways.

“I want to assure you that the friendship between the countries of the region and between the region and Europe is very honest and that we are here to open the doors for further cooperation. We will do our best to put connectivity at the top of our agenda,” Zaev said.

Although many believe that the summit will focus on enlargement rather than the connectivity agenda, many believe that the two topics go hand in hand and are not substitutes for each other.

Sofia talks 2018; Photo: EU2018BG

This topic was topical and very useful, believes the Prime Minister of Montenegro. Duško Markovic.

“In the Balkans, priority has always been given to politics and history rather than economics and development. This approach has led us to the lowest percentage of development in Europe. This fact is worrying and should encourage us to move forward,” Marković said.

He added that the Western Balkan countries are a good example of confidence building and that the European path should not be questioned.

Speaking about Montenegro’s progress, he expressed hope that the country will open all remaining chapters by the end of the year and over the next five years it will be able to conclude the negotiations.

Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj highlighted Kosovo’s support for regional countries, namely Albania and Macedonia, when it comes to starting accession negotiations.

“I heard yesterday, at the Summit, that the project of one of us is the project of all of us. Kosovo strongly supports the opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania. If this does not happen quickly, it could represent a great loss for the region as well as for Europe,” Haradinaj said.

Brnabic and Marković agreed that this should be done as soon as possible, as both countries deserved the opening of negotiations with the EU.

“I am deeply convinced that with the vision of Rama and Zaev, both countries will prosper,” Marković concluded.

Vienna Economic Forum (VEF) was created in April 2004 in Vienna at the Bulgarian initiative with the aim of promoting regional economic cooperation between member countries in the region from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. During its 14 years of existence, the Vienna Economic Forum has continued to strengthen its role both in the South East European region and in other EU and non-EU countries.

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