Bregu: This year marks one of the most impactful ones for the Western Balkans when it comes to regional cooperation

15th Regional Cooperation Council Annual Meeting took place in Budva on 4 June 2023 (Photo: RCC/Armand Habazaj)

15th Regional Cooperation Council Annual Meeting took place in Budva on 4 June 2023 (Photo: RCC/Armand Habazaj)

Participants of RCC Annual Meeting endorse organisation’s Annual Report 

Budva - "This year marks one of the most impactful ones for the Western Balkans, marking the long-awaited turning point towards commitments taken by the economies of the region, through the Common Regional Market (CRM). With integrity, collegiality and competence - three words of tradition and challenge, we as RCC, together with our regional organisations and in close partnership with EU NEAR, embarked on a challenge that was not business as usual: Framing all-inclusive regional cooperation: Pulling together amplified regional efforts towards regional connectivity and togetherness," said Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Majlinda Bregu, at the opening of the 15th Annual Meeting of RCC in Budva today. 

In November 2022 at the Berlin Process Summit the Heads of Governments of the Western Balkans six signed the three mobility agreements under the Common Regional Market (CRM) Action Plan’s mobility agendas - on Freedom of Movement with Identity Cards, on Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, and on Recognition of Professional Qualifications for Doctors of Medicine, Dentists and Architects. Just a month later, at the EU-Western Balkans Summit held in Tirana, within the CRM process facilitated by the RCC and European Commission, telecommunication operators from the European Union (EU) and the Western Balkans signed a Roaming Declaration enabling the reduction of roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkans as of 1 October 2023.
"The 4-pillar plan recently announced by the President of the European Commission to bring the region closer to the EU Single Market, which fully resonates with region’s and RCC’s endeavours to deepen regional economic integration and increasingly align with the EU’s single market through “phasing in” policy, thus enabling more tangible benefits of accession prior to full membership, is to be appreciated. It couldn’t be timelier, as we take stock of the CRM achievements and start the groundwork for another phase of closer integration within WB and with EU single market. Day after day we witness developments that keep reminding us that regional cooperation cannot be taken for granted. Western Balkans can be a scene of competing policies and disputes, even frustrations, but there is a huge space for taking actions together, motivated by a consensual understanding of progress – bringing people, goods, services and capital closer together, which speaks of affirmative perspective of connectivity with purpose not random," concluded Bregu

Besides RCC Secretary General, who chaired the meeting, the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi addressed the RCC annual meeting in a video message, congratulating the RCC for a year of impressive results, underlying the organisation’s commitment to regional integration and efforts to help implement CRM. "Regional economic integration based on EU rules brings the region gradually closer to the Union’s single market already before the accession." Varhelyi underlined the RCC’s instrumental role in reaching the mobility and roaming agreements and announced the continued European Commission’s support to the RCC in the next three years. 

Radovan Bogojević, Acting Director General for Multilateral Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro representing Chairmanship-in-Office of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) in his opening remarks thanked the RCC for its support during their CiO and to the commitment and delivery of the RCC Secretary General, stressing  that the organisation proved up to the task promoting regional cooperation and bringing the region closer to the EU integration. He commented RCC activities in facilitating implementation of CRM and coordinating the SEE2030 Strategy.

Dzenk Sejfula, EU/Regional Initiatives Director, representing the upcoming SEECP C-i-O of North Macedonia, emphasized the milestones of the three mobility agreements brought to the region and informed on its ratification processes as North Macedonia is the depository of the agreements. He announced the upcoming Skopje SEECP C-i-O will present its moto and priorities at the ministerial meeting that is to take place tomorrow.

Later today the RCC Secretary General is to announce the 2022 winner of the Champion of Regional Cooperation Dr Erhard Busek Award, at the special award ceremony taking place in Budva. The Champion of Regional Cooperation Dr Erhard Busek Award is organised in cooperation with the Ministry for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria (BMEIA).

The RCC delegation, led by the RCC SG, will take part in the SEECP events tomorrow – the meeting of SEECP EU integration ministers and the meeting of SEECP foreign ministers, where RCC Annual Report is expected to be adopted.

Watch video on RCC in the past year