Western Balkan nations agree to form Regional Economic Area in bid for closer EU integration
The leaders of six Western Balkan states have agreed to form a Regional Economic Area at a meeting with their European Union counterparts yesterday. The agreement was made at the EU-Western Balkan summit held in the Italian port city of Trieste, which brought together leaders from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, alongside EU members Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Austria, Croatia and Slovenia.
“This ‘Regional Economic Area’ will help unleash the vast potential of the region of about 20 million people by creating better and more sustainable economic opportunities for all, and attract greater volumes of Foreign Direct Investment than the current individual efforts,” the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement. The summit’s participants also agreed to a €500 million investment in projects to boost connectivity in the region, including transport links and the development of a regional electricity market.
The Western Balkan nations, which were all affected by war and ethnic violence in the years following the breakup of Yugoslavia, aspire to join the EU but have yet to be given an accession timeline from Brussels. EU leaders continue to push for further measures to tackle corruption and organised crime as well financial and judicial reforms in the region before any of the states will be granted accession country status.
“All the six partners of the western Balkans clearly want to be more integrated in the European Union… and on the European Union side we are determined to keep the door open and guarantee that there is a future in our union for each of them. Once the right reforms are passed, we will be consistent on our side,” said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, at the summit.