13/07/2017, Trieste, Italy: Italy hosted on the 12th of July 2017 the fourth Western Balkans summit of the Berlin Process in Trieste. The region’s six countries and several EU member states (Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Slovenia, UK) representatives of the EU and International Finance Institutions reviewed current progress and discussed a broad agenda in attempt to go further with regional cooperation, increase coherence and deepen economic integration.
This summit concluded by setting up measures in several areas of cooperation, in particular in the connectivity agenda, which is and will remain the core element of the process and in the integration process. This process is fundamental for the quick integration of Albania and other countries to the EU family.
This Summit highly appreciated the Western Balkans leaders’ joint initiative to accelerate regional economic cooperation and developing a Regional Economic Area. 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 FDI than the current individual efforts. This concept will be put into operation through a multiannual action plan, endorsed by the WB leaders at the. The action plan comprises four dimensions: trade, investment, mobility and digital market.
During the Trieste Summit business leaders from the six western Balkans countries joined further discussions dedicated to the private sector at the Business Forum. At the Business Forum it was discussed about improving the current business environment in the region, encouraging further innovative partnerships between public and private sector, developing the potential co-operation between SMEs in sectors such as energy and environment, infrastructure, innovation, enabling easier access to finance and increasing the regional entrepreneurial skills.
In his keynote address, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, stressed: ’
’Political and economic progress must go hand in hand. Firstly, building bridges between territories and businesses will bring economic benefits as we succeed to overcome political divides and build good neighbourly relations. Secondly, political stability, rule of law and economic development are all part of the same picture. Across the Western Balkans boosting stability and rule of law are the most powerful levers to improve business environment’’.
A dynamic business environment is essential for the diversification and modernization of the economy and the creation of job opportunities and growth. It would accommodate more regional and expanded trade, promote investments and allow entrepreneurship to grow regionally and afterwards globally.
The next summit is expected to take place in the UK in 2018. The Western Balkans agreed to continue the process beyond 2018 and expressed great satisfaction with the prospect of further high level events in the region.