EU pushes Western Balkans toward common market

Family photo of six prime ministers from the Western Balkans, together with Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. [European Commission]

The European Union yesterday (16 March) encouraged the Western Balkan countries to create a common market, which it estimated could create over 80,000 jobs in an area of high unemployment.

“On a very short and medium-term perspective, this could allow […] more than 80,000 jobs in the region,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told reporters in Sarajevo.

He spoke after a meeting with the prime ministers of six Western Balkan countries, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, who all aspire to join the bloc.

Hahn hailed the leaders’ initiative to create a regional common market which he said would mean removing “barriers to allow a free flow of trade, services”.

“It’s also a strong contribution in preparation for the further integration towards the EU.”

A statement from the meeting conveys the message that the EU is pushing the Western Balkans EU hopefuls into deeper regional cooperation.

“As we individually progress towards our European perspective, we recognise the necessity to bundle our strengths as a region. We are working together to create new opportunities for the region, building on its potential to promote its success,” the text reads.

Goran Svilanović, a Serbian diplomat who leads the Regional Cooperation Council, a Sarajevo-based centre fostering euro-Atlantic integration in the Western Balkans, recently said that since the Dutch referendum on the Ukraine Association Agreement, Western Balkans states no longer believed that their EU accession was credible.

Füle: If the EU disengages from the Balkans, others will engage ‘immediately’

Former Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle told an audience today (7 December) that if the EU distances itself from the Western Balkans, other geopolitical players will immediately seize the opportunity to assert their influence over the region.

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