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News 29 Aug 17

Albanian Business Welcomes Joint Balkan Market

A top Albanian businessman says the EU-backed plan to form a common market in the Western Balkans is good in principle - as long as businesses are included in the drafting of the plan. 

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Westen Balkans ministers and EU Commissioner, Johannes Hahn on Saturday in Durres. Photo: LSA/ Gent Shkulllaku

Albania's business community is looking forward to the EU-sponsored initiative to form a Western Balkans common market, while emphasising that the initiative must be free of administrative barriers and distortions, Alban Zusi said.

Susi, who runs a meat business and is director of the Albanian Food Industry Association, told BIRN that reciprocity should be at the core of this agreement.

"If any country claims a product doesn't meet the administrative standards, such as sanitary conditions, and turns it back, the same should be done with this country's products," he said.

On the other hand, he says, products subsided by one country should incur extra fees when they cross the border, so that production on the other side is not undermined.

"Some countries have the possibility to subsidise [products], while others do not," Zusi noted.

The European Commission seeks to form a joint market in the region of some 20 million people in which goods, services, and workers can freely circulate.

The initiative is regarded with some suspicion in Albania, where some fear that Serbia is going to be the main beneficiary.

The project was presented at the Trieste Summit - part of Berlin Process initiative for European integration of Western Balkans - in July.

On August 26, at an informal meeting in Durres, Albania, six Prime Minister from the Balkans agreed on an action plan to make the initiative real.

By September, every Western Balkan country is due to appoint a national coordinator, to make sure that institutions and businesses in each of the countries concerned participates fully in the initiative.

However, some political and economic analysts, and opposition parties, accused the sponsors of the initiative of trying to create a "new Yugoslavia" - in which Serbian exports dominate the market.

The leader of Albania's opposition Republican Party, Fatmir Mediu, on August 26 said the initiative cannot be separated from the political process of normalising relationships between Albanians and Serbs in the region.

"It is important that this idea not only reflects the standpoint of the EU but also of our American friends and of local and international expertise," he wrote.

However, Zusi sees the initiative as a good one, that could lead to the integration of this joint market with that of the EU in the end.

"Balkan businesses still have to learn a lot about joint markets, procedures, software, and about gaining experience before joining the big European market," he said.

Zusi said the initiative has to be discussed without delay with businesses, since their expertise will be crucial.

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