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News 23 Feb 16

Balkan Leaders Discuss Energy, Transport at Summit

Transport links and energy projects were high on the agenda as Balkan premiers met at an investment summit in London organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

BIRN
Belgrade
Western Balkan prime ministers at the summit | Photo: EBRD

The Western Balkans Investment Summit in London on Monday brought together the prime ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia with investors to discuss the development of transport links, energy projects and privatisation.

"We are encouraged by the fact that all of the region’s economies grew last year. And our economists expect growth to rise further in most Western Balkans countries in 2016, albeit still at levels below their potential," said the EBRD’s president, Suma Chakrabarti.

Chakrabarti praised what he called "a reform momentum across the region", with Montenegro advancing along its EU path, Serbia restructuring its public companies, Albania continuing a programme of modernization and Bosnia and Herzegovina starting to implement a reform agenda prepared with the help of the European Commission.

The Balkan prime ministers expressed determination to continue their progress towards the EU.

“I don't agree with [London mayor] Boris Johnson that the EU has become very boring,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, referring to Johnson’s decision to campaign for Britain to vote to leave the EU in a referendum in June.

“Regardless of all challenges, Western Balkans countries believe in a united Europe,” added his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic.

The main part of the summit saw Balkan leaders concentrating on major infrastructure and energy investments, including the Nis-Pristina highway and an electricity transmission line between Macedonia and Albania.

"We don't just expect money, we need political support for reforms, education and the creation of a unique market," Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic said.

The vision of integrated market in the Balkans came a step closer, the regional leaders argued, as Serbia and Slovenia confirmed their intention to join SEE Link, an EBRD-supported regional network for trading securities that will help to integrate domestic stock markets. SEE Link was started by the Bulgarian, Macedonian and Croatian stock exchanges.

The EBRD is one of the largest investors in the Western Balkans and last year alone the bank invested around a billion euro in various projects from energy efficiency to infrastructure and from support for financial institutions to agribusiness.

Its first Western Balkans summit was held two years ago. Participants included government officials, policy-makers and experts as well as leading domestic and international business representatives.

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