Can the economic crisis give new momentum to regional cooperation

December 9, 2022

Dialogue, cooperation and the implementation of innovative solutions based on the EU standards are the basic pillars on which the successful future of the CEFTA Parties rests. On the way to connecting individual markets into a Common Regional Market that will grow economically, the CEFTA Parties have partners and a road map, but they must reaffirm their commitment to this goal as soon as possible, it was concluded in Brussels.

CEFTA Week Conference 2022 gathered key regional actors and partners today at the event called “CEFTA: A stepping stone to the EU Single Market”. It was an opportunity to summarize what was achieved, but also to determine the directions of future joint action in 2023, when Montenegro will take over the Chairmanship of CEFTA from Moldova.

“We all know that regional cooperation is an essential element for the EU integration, and although geographically we are located in different regions, at the end of the day we strive to reach the common objective of greater economic integration. Thus, given the fact that the Republic of Moldova have recently obtained EU candidate status, like the majority of CEFTA members, the topic of discussions for this year’s annual conference is very welcome and pursues the common goal of all of us: ‘CEFTA: A stepping stone towards the EU single market'”, Dumitru Alaiba, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Moldova said today.

The year 2022 brought new challenges, and the consequences of the economic and social crisis further emphasized the need for a systemically regulated market that will be the basis of progress and economic recovery of the entire CEFTA market“, said the director of the CEFTA Secretariat, Emir Djikic.

On margins of the Conference the customs administrations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro signed Memorandum of Understanding, further expending the Green Lanes with the European Union. Together with those already signed with Greece and Itlay in July and September this year, the initiative went a step furteher by creating the basis for facilitation trade and reduction of illegal trade with the EU. More specifically, the expansion of the CEFTA-TCT Green Lanes with Greece, and the establishment of Blue Lanes with Italy, with the support of RCC and European Commission, is expected to results in the smoothing of customs procedures and a better connection of the customs of the CEFTA and EU Members States. In this way, companies whose trucks pass procedures at border crossings have a direct benefit, which brings savings and better work control, and reduces congestion.

Four important decisions await adoption by the Joint Committee: Decision on facilitation of electronic commerce, Decision on inter-Party parcel delivery services, Decision on prevention of unjustified geo-blocking and Decision on the recognition of AEOS Programs. All of them stimulate business according to EU principles and encourage investments. This is not the end of the list. CEFTA is close to concluding the negotiations of another six additional agreements fulfilling the commitments the Western Balkans’ leaders made in 2020 – recognition of certificates, permits and licences targeting engineers, travel agencies, tour operators, producers and traders of honey.

“With this set of decisions, CEFTA continues to position itself as the foundation of the region’s economic integration. There is a road map, as well as ways to overcome challenges and find solutions that will work on the entire CEFTA market through gradual alignment with EU legislation and policies. This is also supported by data that regional trade increased through CEFTA between 74% and 127%, and that trade in goods and services are liberalized and further are being facilitated, in line with the EU policies. As reported in the RCC Balkan Business Barometer, only 22% businesses in the region think that economic situation improved in 2022, while 60% businesses report that they benefited from CEFTA. The trust the businesses have in us in addressing economic crisis consequences and creating new trade opportunities should be our key impuse to deliver the promises we made in Sofia Summit in 2020 and Tirana Summit this week”, added Djikic.

State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism of Montenegro, Armend Milla, pointed out that Montenegro will make additional efforts during its chairmanship to improve and strengthen regional trade cooperation between CEFTA parties and improve good neighborly relations.

“Given that no consensus was reached at the Joint Committee for the adoption of the aforementioned decisions, Montenegro, in its role as the future co-chair of CEFTA in 2023, called on all CEFTA parties to make additional efforts and through constructive dialogue to try to reach consensus and adopt the aforementioned Decisions”, Milla said.

Oliver Varhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, in the video message said that the EU stands with the region and is supporting it with economic and investment plans.

“That is why it is crucial to continue improving CEFTA cooperation. As costs decrease, we will make your markets more attractive to investors bringing investments and jobs too. Success is not possible without the commitment of CEFTA’s contracting parties at the technical and political levels. Regional economic integration is about overcoming political obstacles to foster economic opportunities. The Commission is ready to continue providing the necessary financial and technical support for your work. Through the implementation of the Common regional market Action plan, the work in CEFTA opens up the possibility of significant benefits in a diverse range of sectors – from agreement on geoblocking to expanding agricultural trade through the mutual recognition of veterinary certificates. It is essential for consumers and producers that opening markets becomes reality”, said Varhelyi.

Three panels dedicated to trade in goods, electronic commerce and objectives and opportunities in 2023 chairmanship were organized within the conference.

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