EU investment package will vastly improve Western Balkans economies, said EC President

Dimitar Kovachevski @DKovachevski
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference with North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, at the start of a four-day trip to the region. During her visit, she discussed the details of a 6 billion euro investment package that EU leaders presented earlier this month at a Western Balkans meeting in Albania. The package aims to boost the economy of Western Balkan countries seeking to join the EU. 

However, it requires reforms. 

The Commission’s President said she believes that if implemented correctly, the decade-long investment package could significantly improve the region’s economy.

“I am here today basically to tell you, and the citizens of North Macedonia, that you are on a good track to join the European Union. I am very much looking forward to welcoming you. You, Prime Minister, have described the improvement and the steps forward over the last years. I must say that this is amazing to see the progress that North Macedonia has done,” the Commission’s President said at a press conference with North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski.

But “we need to do more. We need to bring our economies closer,” von der Leyen added.

The EU package represents an excellent opportunity for North Macedonia, as it could double its economy in just 10 years. Despite the promising figures, North Macedonia’s economy still needs to catch up at 42% of the average income in the European Union. 

Therefore, the goal is, von der Leyen said, to work together and achieve significant economic growth within a decade. To accomplish this, the EU is introducing the new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, which consists of four crucial steps.

The EU has identified four pillars to strengthen the relationship between the European Single Market and the Common Regional Market of the Western Balkans. The Plan will provide access to seven crucial sectors of the European Single Market, encourage opening the Common Regional Market to neighbouring countries, and complete it.  

Positive reforms are required, including creating an efficient public administration and sound public finances, improving the business environment, and ensuring the independence of the judiciary while fighting against corruption. Thus, a EUR 6 billion package will support the positive reforms.

“So, it is reforms and investment. Why are we proposing this? Because we made a very good experience with this principle in the European Union,” von der Leyen said. “We have an investment plan for our Member States that is called NextGenerationEU. We put it in place after the pandemic. And it works the same way: reforms and investment. It is working excellently. So, we thought: Why not open this principle also for our friends in the Western Balkans? The Growth Plan will boost your economy. Most importantly, it will create good jobs. And in parallel, it will also support you, of course, on your path towards the European Union,” stressed the Commission President.

“I believe this is the right offer at the right time. The Plan has the potential to double the size of your economy in a decade. That is the goal. And it will play an important role on your path towards the European Union,” she emphasised.

“Therefore, one day, I am absolutely convinced that we will welcome North Macedonia with its unique identity and its own language. Today, we do already have 24 different languages in the European Union. And one day, we will count Macedonian among them. We had very good talks today – thank you very much for this,” concluded von der Leyen.  

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