Tirana, September 26th, 2023 – Under the Berlin Process, the Ministry of Finance and Economy of Albania, in collaboration with the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum and the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Albania, supported by the Regional Challenge Fund among many, hosted the Business Forum in Tirana. This event was followed by the Berlin Process’ Forum of Economy Ministers held on the same day.
Both events served as a platform to discuss the achievements and challenges encountered by the Western Balkans region on its path toward creating common regional market and integrating into the EU single market, under the title: Phasing In Into The Single Market As A Potential For Growth For The Western Balkans.
The Berlin Process Forum of Economy Ministers brought together representatives of the European Union, and other partners to the Berlin Process. They reflected on the achievements, priorities, and main challenges in the implementation of the Action Plan for the Common Regional Market. The Ministers discussed the advancement of regional integration through the Berlin Process as an important instrument for accelerating the economic convergence of the region with the European Union.
Among other points, the Chair`s Conclusions of the Forum of Economy Ministers recognized the importance of the Regional Challenge Fund. Ministers welcomed the continuation of cooperation through the Regional Challenge Fund in the Western Balkan initiated by the BMZ and KfW and implemented by the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6 CIF) to support youth employability and economic growth. They support the continuation of this programme through vocational training and job creation to offer young people better prospects at home.
The Business Forum was opened by Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, who set the tone for the forum in his opening speech, emphasizing the need to think creatively and collaboratively. Ines Mucostepa, President of the Union of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Albania, emphasized the need for the EU to support Western Balkans companies and create a tailored regional development program to facilitate access to new markets. Lulzim Rafuna, Chairman of the WB6 CIF Managing Board and President of Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the importance of the free movement of goods as a cornerstone of economic integration. Wojciech Kowalski, a representative of the European Commission, assured long-term EU support for the region, particularly focusing on micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. He highlighted the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan, aimed at improving connectivity, green and digital transition, and strengthening the business sector in the Western Balkans. Marko Cadez, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, stressed the need for a region without trade barriers and a faster path to integration with the European Union. He emphasized the region’s potential to provide essential resources to Europe, such as rare metals, and called for concrete solutions to expedite entry into the European economic community. The session was moderated by Ms. Tatjana Shterjova Dushkovska, Secretary General of the WB6 CIF.
Mr. Heinz Hetmeier, Deputy Director-General for European Policy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) underscored the importance of human capital development in shaping the region’s economic future. He emphasized the rising interest of companies across all WB6 economies in actively participating in vocational training, as evidenced through the RCF, as a significant turning point. This newfound momentum in vocational training is seen as a vital driver for the development of human capital in the region. Drawing inspiration from Germany’s tradition of dual training, it was firmly asserted that long-term collaboration between companies and vocational training institutions is an essential pillar for a sustainable and robust economy. Mr. Hetmeier called upon representatives from the business and political spheres to capitalize on this newfound “momentum.” This entails creating institutional cooperation structures that were previously lacking and allocating sufficient resources to support vocational training.
The Regional Challenge Fund (RCF), a regional project with the goal of enhancing the qualifications of vocational school graduates, took center stage in discussions. More than 1,700 companies from the six Western Balkan countries engaged with vocational training institutions in a competition for financing from the RCF. Some representatives of these companies were present at the Business Forum, highlighting the region’s significant need for financing in vocational training.
Furthermore, the presence of these companies underlined the keen interest of both businesses and vocational training institutions in jointly shouldering the responsibility for the qualification of skilled workers.
The Business Forum also brought together government representatives from the Western Balkans and local companies to discuss investments, free movement of people, goods, services, capital, green transition, and human capital development. They collectively underscored the need for a conducive growth environment, including better access to financing, transparent procurement procedures, green investment support, and regional certification solutions.
The commitments made during the two events signal a promising future for the Western Balkans on their path to economic prosperity and closer ties with the EU.