Only integrated and connected region can confidently move towards the EU, says Zaev

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I believe we have a renewed incentive and clear political support for the enlargement process and the accession negotiations. We should seize this chance and use it for the benefit of all citizens, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in an opening address at Tuesday’s Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, held as part of the Berlin Process under the joint chairmanship of Bulgaria and Macedonia.

He said support for regional agreement initiatives for traveling in the countries of the region with just an ID card, expansion of green belts in the Western Balkans to the corridors of the European Union, increased cooperation in the field of healthcare in regional response to the pandemic, regional connectivity, not only in terms of infrastructure, was part of the agreements within the Berlin Process, which should enable economic growth, welfare of citizens and faster integration of the region into the EU.

At today’s meeting, participants also had the opportunity to discuss key strategic directions for the region, a vision for an action plan for a common regional market and a green agenda for the Balkans.

The idea of interconnection, which is the core of the Berlin Process, has evolved into a connection in a broader sense than infrastructure. The region rightly recognized the importance of business connectivity, youth mobility, digital connectivity, dialogue between civil society, cultural exchange, all in order to compete in global markets, but also to ensure the well-being of citizens, said Zaev.

He added that the EU reaffirmed its support for the Western Balkans with 9 billion euros in grants, complemented by a new guarantee instrument that could boost investment by an additional 20 billion euros. This, he stressed, is a great financial support for the reform processes and the economic transformation of the region.

The presentation of the green agenda for the Western Balkans will further bring a new narrative in terms of economic development and help integrate the region into key EU policies. We agreed that we should step up our efforts for further real progress in the reform processes and regional economic cooperation and lay the foundations for sustainable growth. Only an integrated and connected region can confidently move towards the European Union, said Prime Minister Zaev.