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Brussels, 23 October 2014
Economic governance and better connectivity: opportunities for Western Balkans
Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle together with the Vice-President of the Commission Jyrki Katainen is attending the "Western Balkans Six" Ministerial Conference about new economic governance and better connectivity in the region. This is what he said to the media:
' Dobar dan, good afternoon. At this important regional meeting the ministers adopted very concrete and forward looking joint statement. Let me now highlight three points:
1) Our new approach to economic governance involves credible reform programmes and enhanced monitoring by the EU. This should help your transformation to functioning market economies, able to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union, including boosting competitiveness, growth and jobs. What does it mean? It means to bring Serbia and other countries of the region the benefits of the enlargement even before joining the EU. It means building economic bridges and starting now to close the gap between the GDP in this region and in the EU.
2) The Western Balkans countries have committed to prepare and submit National Economic Reform Programmes to the European Commission each year starting in January 2015. This should send a strong signal to investors that a good business environment is a national priority. Again - what does it mean? It means more investment and more prosperity for this country and other countries in the region.
3) We also discussed transport and energy connectivity among the Western Balkan countries, and between them and the EU. EU will help policy-wise and financially. Here, the EU is ready to support better connectivity with up to 1bn EUR in grants from IPA funds, and 10bn EUR in soft loans from international financial institutions until 2020. This means that we are finally moving from words to deeds. It means that time has come to offer the people in the Western Balkans modern infrastructure and transportation opportunities within the region and with the EU.
• And since this is my last official engagement in the region in my current capacity, allow me to thank my partners in Serbia and elsewhere in the region for the work we did jointly over the last years. With Jyrki Katainen here, and Commissioner Johannes Hahn, you will be in good and responsible hands.
And the presence of Jyrki here is a clear proof that what we talk about here is wider than an isolated enlargement policy. It is a clear sign that we want the Western Balkan countries to address the same challenges in the same way we are addressing them in the EU.
And Minister, Ivica - you should be proud of what you have prepared today and how you steered today's meeting. This event - although focused on the region was not just a regional event, it was a European event because of the work you have done over the last years.'