One year ago, the leaders of the Western Balkans Six (WB6) – 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 European Commission has been working with them on concrete measures that bene t citizens throughout the region.
Building and connecting transport and energy infrastructure is a driver for growth and jobs, and helps attract investments. It creates links and opportunities for businesses and people, as well as contributing to good neighbourly relations in the region. This is why we have put connectivity at the heart of our agenda, to improve links within the Western Balkans and with the EU.
Last April the WB6 agreed on core transport networks in line with EU recommendations. Concerning energy, priority projects were identi ed based on the work of the energy community to facilitate integration of power systems and to improve and diversify gas supply. This is a major step forward, clearly focusing investment efforts on projects that respond to pressing needs and are also realistic.
But improving transport and energy systems is not just about building roads, railways, power lines or gas pipelines. The WB6 needs to step up efforts to implement accompanying measures to open markets, create a transparent regulatory framework that builds investor con dence, and remove barriers so utilities are managed effectively and ef ciently, and consumers get great value for money.
The WB6 are already moving in this direction for both transport and energy and have agreed on a number of measures to improve management of infrastructure, trade facilitation and more open markets. The thinking is equally joined-up: in transport, road-building work will be accompanied by improvements in border crossing procedures; and in energy, the regional power market envisaged is designed to integrate the growing renewable energy generation capacity in the Western Balkans.
All of these measures will help attract the investments needed to build infrastructure in the region, complementing the EU’s own contribution. And even more so these investments do ultimately help build bridges between the countries and their people. They are creating new opportunities on co- operation focusing on what unites them rather than what divided them. Working together to address shared challenges the WB6 develop mutual trust which is so much necessary for reconciliation, good neighbourly relations and the prosperity of the region. These are key ingredients for the countries to advance on their path towards EU membership. Our shared connectivity agenda is thus part and parcel of our broader accession strategy.
The European Union has set aside up to €1 billion for connectivity investment projects and technical assistance for the period of 2014-2020. The 10 priority projects identi ed so far are described in this folder. I am pleased to share with you these examples of our commitment to help drive forward the connectivity agenda.
The Vienna Summit will be a further milestone for the mutual integration of our partners and a further step for them to the EU.
European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations