Bregu: Western Balkans’ growth potential can be unlocked only through regional economic integration

Bregu: Western Balkans’ growth potential can be unlocked only through regional economic integration

MUNICH/SARAJEVO, February 20 (FENA) – “European integration and transatlantic cooperation should not look decoupled in the Western Balkans (WB). It’s high time to put the process of EU accession of the WB into the spotlight before too late becomes a lifetime. This is the center of gravity for the future of the Western Balkans.

The European perspective is the drive that makes the process of cooperation beneficial to all in long term! Our region is not a perfect one, but we want to make the best out of an imperfect picture,” said Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Majlinda Bregu, at the opening of the high-level event “Don’t look decoupled: Charting a Path for the EU and the Western Balkans”, co-organized with the Munich Security Conference (MCS).

“The region’s growth potential can be unlocked only through regional economic integration in the Western Balkans. This is the ultimate aim of the Common Regional Market (CRM) Agenda that we in RCC spearhead. And although there has been a notable under-delivery on certain agendas, in an overwhelming number of cases, this was the consequence not of technical, but political nature. Regional economic integration is not a self-standing process. It will only be piecemeal if not joined by a call for an intensified credible path to EU membership, as well as “phasing-in” to EU policies, programs and the EU market as part of the accession process. We are aware that EU has all the leverage it wants in this region. Supported by more than 62% of WB citizens and keeping the pole position as the biggest investor,” added Bregu.

The event brought high-level officials from the region and EU: Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Kiril Petkov; Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski; Prime Minister of Kosovo*, Albin Kurti; Foreign Minister of Albania, Olta Xhacka; Foreign Minister of Croatia, Goran Grlić Radman; Foreign Minister of Slovenia, Anze Logar; German State Minister, Tobias Lindner; Secretary-General at EEAS, Stefano Sannino; MSC Chair, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger; EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Prishtina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak; US Senator, Jeanne Shaheen; US Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Naz Durakoglu; and other high WB, EU and US Congress Officials. The event was moderated by Majda Ruge, Senior Expert at the European Council of Foreign Relations.

“European integration of the WB it is not only a territorial agenda but a transformational one as well. We all agree that enlargement is not a methodological process, but a political one and should continue to remain so. Now is the time to act. If this opportunity is missed, the Western Balkans risk another lost decade marked by new potential instabilities. If skilled and educated young people do not see a European perspective at home, they will take on existing opportunities to migrate and seek better living conditions in the EU,” concluded the RCC Secretary-General Bregu.