TIRANA, October 16, 2023—During her first visit to Albania as the World Bank Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia Region, Antonella Bassani is meeting the leaders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, the representatives of the European Union institutions, international financial institutions and other partners gathered in Tirana for the Summit of the Berlin Process to discuss actions to strengthen regional economic cooperation and integration.
Economic integration is an essential driver of growth, job creation, and prosperity. The Western Balkan economies could realize that opportunity by addressing barriers to trade in goods and services and by modernizing payment systems, stressed Antonella Bassani at the Summit.
“The Western Balkans have a tremendous opportunity to tap a market of 450 million people in the European Union. Experience across the world, as well as in the Western Balkans, has shown that for firms to grow and achieve economies of scale, it is essential to access international markets,” said Antonella Bassani, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. “Economic integration provides a fast track to the adoption of new technologies, to the flow of new ideas and innovations, and to the shift to higher productivity that underpins growth in middle-income economies.”
Currently, every year around 26 million hours – almost 3,000 years – of truck drivers’ time are wasted at border crossings in the Western Balkans.
According to a new World Bank report discussed during Berlin Process meetings, reducing average wait times at the border by three hours—which is the difference between average wait times in the Western Balkans and the OECD—could add as much as three percent to gross domestic product (GDP) in each of the six economies over the medium term.
Accession to the European Union would amplify gains by an additional six percent. Furthermore, neighboring European Union countries such as Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria can experience gains of around 0.2 percent due to increased trade with the Western Balkans.
The World Bank is already working with partners to facilitate trade and transport in the region through investments and reforms. It is also supporting the Western Balkan economies to bring their payment systems closer to European Union standards and fulfill the conditions for the integration into Single Euro Payments Areas (SEPA), which will facilitate and reduce the cost of remittances.
During her visit to Albania, Antonella Bassani will meet Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Finance and Economy Ervin Mete, among other high-level government officials.
For more information about the World Bank programs to spur regional economic integration in the Western Balkans, click here.