MIA News

Kovachevski: Growth Plan, EU’s most serious political confirmation for integration of the Western Balkans

Skopje, 23 January 2024 (MIA) – The Growth Plan is so far the most serious political confirmation from the European Union, indicating their concrete plan for the effective EU integration of the Western Balkans. In these crucial moments for the progress of the region, particularly for North Macedonia’s European future, the EU and the US, from here in Skopje, sent a clear message of support for the effective integration of the Western Balkans into the EU. Simultaneously, they conveyed a message that they consider the pro-European state leaderships crucial in this process, PM Dimitar Kovachevski said on Monday.

Speaking at the joint press conference with the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, James O’Brien following the leaders’ meeting on the EC’s Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, PM Kovachevski noted that the Growth Plan is a concrete action by the EU for increased regional cooperation and the inclusion of Western Balkan countries in the common European market. With the adoption of a joint declaration, the leaders confirmed their commitment to implementing activities from the Plan, primarily focusing on reforms and improving cooperation.

“Today, during the meeting, we adopted a joint declaration, committing as leaders from the Western Balkans to advance our countries in line with European standards. In the joint declaration, we underscored the tremendous importance of collaboration among all of us in the region, forming a strategic alliance among the Western Balkan states to achieve our individual and, simultaneously, collective objective – EU membership,” Kovachevski said.

He noted that the Republic of North Macedonia has been in the accession process for three decades and has achieved a good level of alignment of our legislation with EU law of over 50 percent.

“As a government, we’ve done everything required, and over the past 15 months, we successfully concluded the screening process with the EU after holding the first intergovernmental conference. However, North Macedonia’s accession process to the European Union is not solely a government procedure. This is a social transformation that encompasses all social actors. And it requires a high level of personal, political, and institutional responsibility to achieve our strategic goal, following integration into NATO. And I want to convey that we will do everything necessary to ensure a stable economic and prosperous European future for the Macedonian citizens in our homeland,” PM Kovachevski said.

As the host of the final international event in his, as he noted, first term as prime minister, he thanked everyone for the partnership and cooperation.

“We faced numerous challenges together, stood by each other, and joined forces when necessary. I believe that in the upcoming term, we will carry on and enhance the pro-European agenda that our citizens anticipate from us. The region, North Macedonia, belongs to the EU, and this is a process that has started and will not stop. The EU is our only alternative and strategic goal. Therefore, here and in front of you, I will reiterate with political will and hard work, no goal is unattainable,” said Kovachevski, expressing gratitude to international partners and regional leaders for today’s exceptionally important meeting dedicated to the Growth Plan.

Moreover, in today’s discussion, he pointed out that the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is recognized by everyone as an excellent opportunity for access to the European Single Market. With its implementation, which depends not only on the EU but primarily on us,” he emphasized, “the Western Balkan countries should double their GDP per capita. Specifically, from an average of €6,000 per capita in the region to an average of €12,000 per capita in the next ten years.”

“Today, we placed the focus on two out of the four pillars of the EU’s Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, specifically on the Common Regional Market and the European Single Market, and this for several reasons. Firstly, because I personally believe that these two pillars have received less attention in the public sphere until now. Secondly, and more significantly, they play a key role in unlocking the economic potential of the region. They will open doors for local businesses and workers to the region and to Europe, making the region more attractive to European and global investors. Thirdly, through the acceptance and implementation of EU standards, the Common Regional Market will serve as a stepping stone to the European Single Market.

Speaking in terms of figures, we are dealing with a regional economy of slightly over €100 billion GDP and 17 million residents, aiming to join a market of 450 million people, with a GDP surpassing €15 trillion. The GDP of the countries in the region in relation to the EU is only 0.6 percent. Additionally, through the establishment and strengthening of the established regional market, our economies are expected to experience growth of around 10 percent,” PM Kovachevski noted.

When asked by a journalist about the fact that the Plan has not yet been discussed in the Council of Europe and when he expects it to happen, Kovachevski noted that the plan was presented by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. He added that, following EU procedures, it will certainly be on the agenda of one of the forthcoming sessions of the Commission, considering that it is expected to work in its current composition until June.

Leaders’ meeting on the EC’s Growth Plan for the Western Balkans that took place in Skopje on Monday was attended by the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Albanian PM Edi Rama, Montenegrin PM Milojko Spajić, Kosovo PM Albin Kurti, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister of Finance and Treasury Srđan Amidžić, as well as Director General at the Directorate General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), Gert Jan Koopman, and US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, James O’Brien.

On 8 November 2023, the European Commission adopted a new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, with the aim of bringing the Western Balkan partners closer to the EU through offering some of the benefits of EU membership to the region in advance of accession, boosting economic growth and accelerating socio-economic convergence.

The new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is based on four pillars, aimed at: enhancing economic integration with the European Union’s single market, boosting economic integration within the Western Balkans through the Common Regional Market, accelerating fundamental reforms, and increasing financial assistance to support the reforms through a Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans for the period 2024-2027, a proposal for a new instrument worth €6 billion, consisting of €2 billion in grants and €4 billion in concessional loans, with payment conditioned on the Western Balkans’ partners fulfilling specific socio-economic and fundamental reforms.