EU's Várhelyi: The Western Balkans are of strategic importance to the EU

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Source: Vlada Srbije

The Western Balkans are of strategic importance for the European Union, the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi told the Thursday's meeting of the Steering Board of the Investment Framework for the Western Balkans (WBIF).

He added the Economic and Investment Plan for sustainable and stable development during the pandemic showed that.

The meeting was also attended by the Minister for European Integration of Serbia and the national IPA coordinator, Jadranka Joksimovic, as well as by the Balkans’ foreign ministers.

Joksimovic said Serbia’s government plan envisaged nine billion Euros in EU grants for priority areas and projects to connect the region and improve ties with the EU.

That would, as she said, speed up the free flow of people and goods and deepen trade and economic co-operation.

Joksimovic added that “by implementing the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, the EU will help build key regional transport, energy and digital infrastructure, its transition to sustainable models of economic development in line with the Green Agenda, and encourage further development of the private sector with the strong integration of the region into wider economic flows and processes “.

The plan will be financed by EU grants and favourable loans from the international financial institutions EIB and EBRD.

Joksimovic expects that by combining these funds, providing guarantees and funds for the domestic plan “Serbia 2025” will encourage the participation of the commercial and private sector in financing projects, which would significantly increase investments in the region.

She thanked Várhelyi for solidarity and EU assistance during the pandemic to strengthen Serbia’s health system.

The Investment Framework for the Western Balkans is a special instrument of support for the EU and international financial institutions for the preparation and implementation of infrastructure projects.

Since 2014, Serbia has received 135 million Euro in non-refundable aid for six projects in transport, energy and environmental protection.