President Ursula von der Leyen Presents Growth Plan for the Western Balkans at GLOBSEC 2023 Bratislava Forum News | WeBalkans


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President Ursula von der Leyen Presents Growth Plan for the Western Balkans at GLOBSEC 2023 Bratislava Forum

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered a speech on 31 May at the GLOBSEC 2023 Bratislava Forum, where she primarily focused on the war in Ukraine but also addressed issues related to the Western Balkans. In her speech, she emphasized the need to strengthen the ties between the European Union and the aspiring members of the Western Balkans. Von der Leyen highlighted that it is no longer sufficient to simply wait for these countries to move closer to the Union; rather, the responsibility lies with the EU to actively bring them closer.


The shockwaves of Putin’s war of aggression have reached the six Western Balkan partners, but this has only served to bring them closer together. The EU has extended its solidarity measures to the Western Balkans, offering support to vulnerable households against high energy costs. Additionally, the EU is investing in the construction of new infrastructure to reduce the region’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels. This practical cooperation is taking place in parallel with progress on the EU accession path.


While recent tensions are a cause for concern, President von der Leyen echoed calls for all sides to step away from confrontation and take measures to restore calm. To seize this important moment in the region, she presented a new growth plan for the Western Balkans. The plan aims to build upon the progress achieved in recent months and bring some of the benefits of EU membership to the people of the Western Balkans at present.


The proposed growth plan rests on four pillars. Firstly, it aims to bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU Single Market, allowing them to join the Digital Single Market in areas such as e-commerce and cybersecurity. This would facilitate trade in goods and payments. President von der Leyen emphasized that the Single Market should be a driver of change not only for current EU member states but also for those on their way to membership.


Secondly, the plan seeks to deepen regional economic integration through the establishment of a common regional market. This market is crucial for unlocking the economic potential of the region and making it more attractive to European investors. Adherence to EU rules and standards within this common regional market can also expedite the accession process.


The third pillar of the growth plan is to accelerate fundamental reforms in the Western Balkans. These reforms, such as building an independent and efficient judiciary, ensuring sound public procurement, and intensifying the fight against corruption, are essential for boosting investor confidence.


Lastly, President von der Leyen highlighted the EU’s readiness to support the Western Balkans with increased pre-accession funding. Recognizing the need for investment in the region, she emphasized that these investments would not only improve the lives of people but also facilitate their path to EU membership. In these turbulent times, the four-point plan presented by President von der Leyen offers a comprehensive approach to support the Western Balkans. The European Commission’s growth plan for the Western Balkans demonstrates the EU’s commitment to bringing these countries closer to the Union. By offering access to the Single Market, encouraging regional economic integration, promoting necessary reforms, and increasing pre-accession funds, the EU aims to expedite the Western Balkans’ journey towards EU membership.

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Source: European Union

Photo credits: European Union

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