Thursday, May 23, 2024

THE SUMMIT IN TIRANA WAS NOT ONLY SYMBOLIC

This reawakening of the European Union’s interest and return of focus to the Western Balkans is not only symbolic, but shows a serious partnership and solidary support in this time of crisis. The European Union continues to be the main supporter and donor of the region and for this reason there is no better alternative to increase the well-being of the citizens. The EU has so far approved funding for 40 key projects in transport, connectivity, energy transition, green agenda, digital transition and human capital development, with EU support of €1.8 billion and a total investment value of €5.7 billion. euros.

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.

On December 6 of this year, the fourth Summit in a row between the European Union and the Western Balkans was held in Tirana. The first summit of this kind was held in Thessaloniki, Greece, where the strategic interest of the full inclusion of the countries of the Western Balkans in the European Union was established and the provision of a clear perspective for this purpose. After a 15-year hiatus, this summit was revived in 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria and was followed by the virtual summit in Zagreb, Croatia in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. These summits are especially important for the aspiring countries of the Western Balkans because this is a mechanism that gives dynamics to the integration process, but also through it milestones of concrete financial and institutional support are set.

This time, this summit was considered historic, because for the first time it takes place in a country that is not a member of the European Union, and Albania had this honor. In addition to the symbolism, this in itself conveys a very strong signal, not only for the aspiring countries and those that are members of the EU, but also for the third countries that have this region in their sphere of interest, and here in particular towards Russia which is developing a military aggression against a country also with aspirations to join the European family – Ukraine. In fact, as seen by the war in Ukraine and the ever-increasing Euro-skepticism and the loss of hope for a clear and imminent prospect of integration into the European Union, followed by the growing support for ethno- the nationalism of the right and left extremes among the citizens has made the leaders of the EU countries aware that this region is again in danger of slipping into new insecurity and problems.

Beyond the symbolism, a number of financial packages were also approved during the summit, which aim to narrow the socio-economic gap between the Western Balkans and the European Union. Among other things, the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan of approximately 30 billion euros, focused on the main projects for the green and digital transition, sustainable transport, clean energy, support for the private sector and human capital development, was evaluated. The EU has so far approved funding for 40 key projects in transport, connectivity, energy transition, green agenda, digital transition and human capital development, with EU support of €1.8 billion and a total investment value of €5.7 billion. euros.

  • This includes 12 investment projects approved on December 5, of which 6 projects in the energy sector have been accelerated thanks to the energy support package of 1 billion euros, consisting of two pillars:
  •  EUR 500 million in immediate support to all Western Balkan partners to mitigate the effects of rising energy prices for businesses and households in need, which has been approved and will be ready for disbursement in early 2023, and

 

  • 500 milionë euro në mbështetje afatshkurtër dhe afatmesme nëpërmjet Kornizës së Investimeve në Ballkanin Perëndimor për të avancuar tranzicionin energjetik dhe sigurinë energjetike. Paketa mbulon  Programit Rajonal për Efikasitet Energjetik që do të fokusohet në  rinovimin për efikasitet energjetik të ndërtesave private dhe publike, gjashtë grante të reja investimi për burimet e rinovueshme të energjisë, tre skema grantesh për tranzicionin e energjisë në sektorin privat dhe një sërë garancish për të mbështetur energjinë e rinovueshme dhe efikasitetin energjetik. Kjo pritet të mobilizojë në bashkëpunim me institucionet financiare ndërkombëtare deri në 2.5 miliardë euro investime.

 

  • 500 million euros in short- and medium-term support through the Western Balkans Investment Framework to advance the energy transition and energy security. The package covers the Regional Program for Energy Efficiency which will focus on energy efficiency renovation of private and public buildings, six new investment grants for renewable energy sources, three grant schemes for energy transition in the private sector and a series of guarantees to support renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is expected to mobilize up to 2.5 billion euros of investments in cooperation with international financial institutions.

 

The summit also had a series of conclusions related to security, the fight against illegal migration, violent extremism, terrorism and increasing resilience against harmful interference from abroad. Among other things, a program of 70 million euros was mobilized to increase the capacities for border controls and 5 million euros to increase resilience against cyber-attacks. During the summit, the agreement on the reduction of telephone tariffs for roaming between the EU and the Western Balkans was also signed, which, upon entering into force in October 2023, will significantly reduce prices and will directly affect citizens and businesses.

So, this reawakening of the European Union’s interest and return of focus to the Western Balkans is not only symbolic, but shows a serious partnership and solidary support in this time of crisis. The European Union continues to be the main supporter and donor of the region and for this reason there is no better alternative to increase the well-being of the citizens.

 

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