EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi stated from Sarajevo that “the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan constitutes a significant injection worth €9 billion in the form of grants, which will boost the GDPs of all countries in the region by approximately 3.6 per cent”.
His Friday visit to the BiH capital took place in the context of his tour across the Western Balkan region, during which he had a chance to meet with BiH Cabinet Chairman Zoran Tegeltija, as well as with other officials. However, his visit did not include a meeting with members of the BiH Presidency, the body primary responsible for the implementation of reforms in the country, as they traveled to Brussels to meet with other EU officials.
After meeting with Tegeltija and others, Varhelyi pointed out that this was a great chance for all the Western Balkan countries, including BiH, to achieve tangible and visible changes and results in the next 4-5 years, that would contribute to the long-term prospects for future generations and every citizen.
“This is the first time I visit the country and the city in my capacity as Commissioner, and I am happy to have arrived with such good news. We inform you of a great opportunity for the whole region. The Commission has worked hard to show that all Western Balkan countries constitute a priority, and we are working to strengthen relations. This area is certainly considered a part of Europe, and we are working to formally make it part of the Union. We will continue to work in the coming period to accelerate recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and reduce inequalities in the field of development between the Western Balkans and the EU”, Varhelyi said.
He emphasized that it is extremely important “that we work together on the recovery of our economies and on accelerating the recovery of the region’s economies”, in the context of which the Economic and Investment Plan was presented.
“It constitutes a significant injection with funds worth €9 billion in the form of grants and over €20 billion through guarantees. This total amount represents one-third of the total GDP of all Western Balkan countries”, the Commissioner said.
As he argued, the region needs to strengthen its road infrastructure, link capitals, resolve the energy supply issue, decrease coal consumption and more, with the aim of achieving growth and development.
Council of Ministers Chairman Zoran Tegeltija said that, during his meeting with Varhelyi, he had received the latter’s confirmation that BiH would receive the candidate status in the EU by the summer of 2021.
At the press conference that followed the meeting, also attended by the prime ministers of Republika Srpska Radovan Višković and the Federation of BiH Fadil Novalić, Tegeltija said that Varhelyi had presented the economic and investment plan for the Balkans.
“What is important to us is that the thoughts on the European investment plan for the Western Balkans coincide with the attitudes and ideals of the authorities in BiH, which include long-term economic recovery and development, regional economic integration, supporting green and digital transition, as well as the promotion of projects of regional significance”, Tegeltija pointed out.
According to reports from Brussels, the three BiH Presidency members also had successful meetings.
“The most important point that derived from the meeting is that the relationship between the EU institutions and BiH will be continuous and constant. It is up to us in BiH to fulfill all obligations from the 14 priorities set out by the EC Opinion, but we will have the firm support of the EU institutions. We will clinch the candidate status for next year’s summer as soon as possible, as European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said”, BiH Presidency Chairman Šefik Džaferović stated, following his meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and Paul Rangel, the European Parliament’s Permanent Rapporteur on Should.
Džaferović pointed out that BiH will have the support of the EU in resolving the migrant crisis and curbing the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the EU supports regional initiatives and those should be realized under the auspices of European institutions, representing a step forward in the whole Western Balkan region’s effort to acquire EU membership.
“I believe all BiH institutions will do their best to make use of this opportunity. A session of the BiH Presidency has already been scheduled, and I believe that we will adopt a statement or proclamation to all BiH institutions. All 14 priorities set out by the EC Opinion have been met. There are some more challenging and some less complicated issues, but through dialogue we could have a chance to resolve every issue. We have no alternatives to the European path. The sooner we do that, the better it will be for us”, Džaferović said.
Milorad Dodik said that “BiH received a number of expectations and ‘homework’”.
“There is much to do; some of that has already been done, and some set the ground for constitutional amendments, which will be very difficult and also impossible, as well as part of the possible transfer of competencies to a state level in some European issues. We have been hearing that for 20 years. It didn’t happen, so it won’t happen now either”, Dodik pointed out.
Željko Komšić pointed out that the three members of the Presidency had appeared united.
“If it were easy to fulfil 14 priorities, we would already be in the EU. We and our today’s hosts are aware of that”, said Komšić. /ibna