The leaders of the Western Balkans Six, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, endorsed the Common Regional Market (CRM) 2021-2024 Action Plan at the Berlin Process Summit held on 10 November, 2020 in Sofia.

With an unwavering support from the European Commission, private sector, South East Europe economies and relevant regional and international stakeholders, the Common Regional Market Action Plan is established as a transformative tool to increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of the region and to bring the region closer to the EU markets. The Common Regional Market Action plan is a result of intense consultations at national, regional and international level, including through already established REA structures, REA Component Contact Points (CCPs) and REA Coordinators, and PM Sherpas as the highest level of governance to provide strategic guidance to the process.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, enhanced market integration of Western Balkan economies will help tackle the mid- and long-term effects of the pandemic by attracting investments in productive sectors and sustainable infrastructure, and by generating new opportunities for citizens and business community. Firmly anchored in the EU’s recovery efforts and underpinned by the EU Economic and Investment Plan, this agenda will play a central role in creating a strong economic base to relaunch and modernise the economies of the region.

The Economic and Investment Plan welcomes the complementarity of the Common Regional Market with the EU integration process as it will pave the way for a deeper economic integration with the EU Single market. The implementation of sectoral agreements in this regional framework will be taken into account in the assessment of how prepared Western Balkan economies are for participation in the EU Single market in the given sector. In this respect, integrating the region more closely with the EU Single market before WB economies acede to the Union is the guiding principle of this Action Plan.

The Common Regional Market builds on the achievements of the Regional Economic Area (REA) as the first regional initiative of its kind. The agenda shall have a transformative effect by putting the region on the map for global investors, thereby creating jobs and offering greater choices at lower prices for its consumers, and enabling people to work throughout the region. The implementation of the regional actions represent a steppingstone for WB6 firms to better integrate into the European value chains and strengthen their competitiveness in the European and global marketplace.

The Action Plan is made up of targeted actions in four key areas:

  • Regional trade area: free movement of goods, services, capital and people, including crosscutting measures, such as the Green Lanes, to align with EU-compliant rules and standards and provide opportunities for companies and citizens;
  • Regional investment area, to align investment policies with the EU standards and best international practices and promote the region to foreign investors;
  • Regional digital area, to integrate the Western Balkans into the pan-European digital market; and
  • Regional industrial and innovation area, to transform the industrial sectors, shape value chains they belong to, and prepare them for the realities of today and challenges of tomorrow.

The implementation of CRM 2021-2024 Action Plan remains within the realm of responsibility of public institutions in each of the Western Balkans economy, in particular ministries and institutions leading the implementation effort at the economy level.

The RCC and CEFTA Secretariats are leading regional organisations to facilitate the implementation of the Action Plan, while other regional and/or international structures are included in specific actions in line with their scope of work and programme. In particular, the RCC will support implementation of actions which seek to increase the attractiveness of the region for foreign investors, integrate the Western Balkans into the pan-European digital area, upgrade the industrial base and innovation infrastructure, and advance towards free movement of people and capital. CEFTA Secretariat will support carrying out the actions which seek to implement CEFTA 2006 and extend commitments and benefits to the EU and other trading partners. The private sector perspective and contribution will be ensured through close cooperation with WB6 CIF with a view to facilitating implementation of joint actions. At the same time, these actions will provide linkages and seek synergies with their European partners.

Each of the actions outlined in the Action Plan has a clearly identified regional structure that will serve to coordinate, facilitate and support the implementation of the regional activities in this domain and assist with the monitoring of progress, also in line with their own activity plans and work programmes.

CRM Benefits

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

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