Three years ago, the leaders of the Six Western Balkans countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia – met in Berlin to bring a new dynamism to regional cooperation. Since then, the citizens throughout the region, with a focus on improving transport and energy links within the Western Balkans as well as between the region and the EU.
In 2015, we set aside up to one billion Euro in grants until 2020, from the EU’s Pre-Accession Instrument, to support this ‘Connectivity Agenda.’ These grants will leverage EUR 4 billion in investments and create more than 45,000 jobs.
To date, including the seven new projects presented in detail in this package, we have already committed half of the EUR 1 billion pledge, giving grants for 20 infrastructure projects in locations this year. The EU’s support has already generated EUR 1.4 billion in investment, creating more than 20,000 jobs in the process.
The European Union’s commitment to improving connectivity with and within the Western Balkans builds on past support given to the region: by 2014, EU had leveraged investments worth more than EUR 3 billion for infrastructure projects in the Western Balkans through EUR 660 million in grants.
Connectivity covers more than building transport and energy corridors. Cross-border infrastructures make sense if they are complemented by regional, institutional and regulatory reform measures which allow people and businesses to take full advantage of these. The WB6 leaders have agreed to implement reform measures to open markets, create a transparent past year. It is essential that efforts continue, adding value to the infrastructure investments supported to date.
For the past 3 years, we have worked on connecting physical infrastructure as well as transport and energy systems. At the Trieste summit, we will also open a complementing chapter on connecting markets and economies, by creating a Regional Economic Area. Our connectivity agenda also includes putting more citizens in touch with each other. In this context, we are programme among the most talented young civil servants of the region.
I am pleased to share with you the current state of the connectivity agenda. It represents relations as well as a further milestone on their path towards EU membership.