The European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, in his address at a business forum about the Western Balkans Summit in Paris, did not mention once Macedonia, unlike Montenegro, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo.
The Commissioner believes that although at present the EU is in a difficult phase, the potential for EU membership continues to be a factor of change and an anchor of stability for the countries of South-East Europe.
Hahn stressed that the measures proposed by the EU should lead to creating a single market in the Western Balkans before the countries officially join the Union.
“ One of our biggest challenges for preparing the Western Balkans countries for the EU is restructuring the economic model to ensure that all countries are functioning market economies, and driven by export and investments rather than import and consumption. The progress on connectivity measures are an important element in this respect. The accession process is not only about aligning national legislation with the EU acquis. It increasingly focuses on economic issues underpinned by the rule of law. We put a strong emphasis on promoting economic development and strengthening competitiveness , “said Hahn.
According to the EU, most countries have shown a strong commitment to the Economic Reform Program Process and have made it a central element of their strategic economic planning. Its implementation, adds Hahn, has been mixed, in particular regarding the key structural reform recommendations.
“Each government now has to take concrete steps in the coming year to address all of them”, said Hahn, adding that the EU was very clear when it stated that it is reforms are necessary to give value for investments.
He says that the connection does not just mean building new infrastructure, but is also seen in the best way it is used.
“Investments without reforms make little sense. And why should anybody invest in new roads if the existing network is not properly maintained? We have decided to provide € 96 million for 3 railway infrastructure projects in Serbia, Albania and in Kosovo. We will also provide € 50 million for greening measures such as energy efficiency in residential buildings and small scale Hydro projects. This demonstrates that we are serious about our commitment to making up to 1 billion in EU by 2020 grant co-financing available for the connectivity agenda. All these measures should lead to a Western Balkans single market, well ahead before joining the Union”, said Commissioner Hahn.