Tirana, 28 August 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
The Vienna Summit held its proceedings in three parallel sessions: round table of the ministers of Economy, ministers of Foreign Affairs and Prime Ministers.
The round table of the ministers of Economy was presided by vice Chancellor and Austrian Federal Minister of Economy, Mr. Mitterlehner, with the presence of the vice president of the European Commission, Sefcovic, vice president of the European Bank for Investments and six ministers of Economy of Western Balkan.
This year, the economic part of the summit focused on economic prosperity and connectivity in transport and energy and professional treatment.
In his speech, Mr. Mitterlehner considered the incentive for Western Balkan as an important achievement for the region and the EU. Austrian vice chancellor, pointed two main aspects: connectivity and professional training.
Minister of Economic Development, Arben Ahmetaj talked about the result of the West Balkan incentive during this year. “Today, we can make an account of what we have achieved as a region since the Berlin Conference. First of all, each of the countries has realized that the best way to make our economies more competitive is through a regional strategic approach. We have marked concrete cooperation in terms of connectivity. Today we have projects for which we have agreed with each other, projects which benefit all the countries of the region, such as the Adriatic-Ionian Highway (Blue Highway), Ionian-Adriatic pipeline (IAP) or the project of the highway linking Nis to Pristina and Durres. The Blue Highway is now part of the main network of infrastructure that connects the EU. Now it’s the time to think of what we must do in the future. A year ago, we had the good will to collaborate. Today we have a concrete business plan, which we must implement”, the minister said.
As far as the advancement of the West Balkan incentive is concerned, Ahmetaj offered four main proposals by the Albanian government:
The minister proposed that every project must have a regional high level coordinator, so called “liaison officials”, high profile people with an economic and political background, which will follow every step of the implementation of the projects in coordination with the countries of the region and the EU.
The second issue was the idea of PM Edi Rama for regional economic integration and Regional Development Bank. “Primer Minister Rama has proposed the idea of creating a regional economic union, thus a regional economic integration as a preparative phase for EU integration and also the idea for the Regional Development Bank. These are ideas backed by chancellor Merkel and other EU institutions”, Minister Ahmetaj said.
“We initiated a similar mechanism with Kosovo, for the removal of barriers which didn’t relate to charges in trade, the standardization of procedures and reduction of bureaucracies. The scope is to expand this project with Serbia, Montenegro and all the countries of the region”, Ahmetaj illustrated with concrete examples.
As far as the funding of feasibility is concerned, referring to budget restrictions in the countries of the region, the minister said that it will be impossible for feasibility studied to be carried out by the countries of the Balkan. For this, we will need EU assistance and we must think of innovative mechanisms of funding.
“All the countries of the region have used up financial capacities. It’s not possible to increase debt any more, therefore along with EBRD and European Bank for Investments, we’re working to come up with an instrument of guarantee, which will fund the feasibility for these corridors, in order for the budgets of the countries of the region not to offer sovereign guarantees, but in order to have European and international instruments which offer sovereign guarantees”, Ahmetaj said.
The last topic was professional training. “Professional education is the true infrastructure. We have the advantage of the low cost of labor, but we have shortfalls when it comes to qualification. The Austrian and German model and experience may serve as good examples to be applied by us, with a regional approach”, the Minister said. /ibna/