Newsletter 1/2010 - Our South East Europe
Strengthened regional cooperation in South East Europe as a remedy for economic crisis
South East European countries should strengthen mutual business ties in an attempt to overcome effects of economic crisis, regional officials agree.
The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) can help provide a coordinated response to the global crisis, based on a strategic approach and in accordance with national priorities, in particular regarding the EU accession, and in that way also help minimize slowdown of European integration in the region.
“It is obvious that the global crisis has slowed down the process of moving closer to the EU of the non-EU member states in the region”, Božidar Đelic, Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said for the RCC newsletter.
It is up to the EU to decide on future enlargement, Đelic said, stressing that the countries seeking membership, Serbia included, need to “continue with reforms of their economies and societies and keep on putting efforts in reaching standards and fulfilling required accession criteria”.
Đelic agreed that closer business cooperation might help the countries in the region in overcoming effects of the economic crisis.
“All the countries in the region have similar economic problems and, at the same time, their markets are relatively small”, Đelic noted.
“It is very important that these countries use, in the best possible way, potentials of free trade under the CEFTA agreement, which represents a kind of entrance hall to the EU”, he underlined.
The Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA 2006) is a free trade agreement between non-EU countries in South East Europe.
“Implementation of the CEFTA has created a free trade zone covering the area with nearly 30 million people, which makes the region an interesting target for big investors”, Đelic added.
“One of the priorities of the Regional Cooperation Council is to help provide a coordinated response to the global crisis”, the RCC Deputy Secretary General Jelica Minić said.
“We will act in a pro-active way based on a strategic approach and in accordance with national priorities, in particular regarding the EU accession”, she added.
Minić said that the planned RCC activities related to infrastructure include “preparation and implementation of the Danube Strategy and exploration of potential for increased number of air links within the region”.
Representatives of large companies in South East Europe also agree that closer economic cooperation is necessary.
“I believe that the strengthening of economic cooperation in the region could help overcoming the current economic situation”, said Ali Genc, the chief spokesman for the Turkish Airlines.
“In terms of the number of passengers it is a small market, but very important one and we plan to expand our operations in those countries.”
Genc recalled that Turkish Airlines was recently named the best airline company in Southern Europe by an independent survey.
Besides economic parameters, one of the key challenges in the region is political stability in the Western Balkans.
Eduard Kukan, head of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with countries of South East Europe, said this February in Sarajevo that political stability is a prerequisite for any future development.
“Regional cooperation can bring greater economic and political stability for the whole region, give the countries necessary skills to deal with future cooperation within the EU, and, if properly executed and managed, send a positive signal to the European Union”, Kukan underlined.
“I think that the RCC plays an important role in the process as a platform which helps to facilitate this kind of cooperation.”
He underlined however that without a minimum degree of consensus there is no way out of the economic crisis.
“The will to achieve political consensus appears to be missing too often across the region.”
“I believe that the top priority of the politics in the Western Balkans is to establish a political dialogue which is conducive to achieving results”, Kukan concluded.