- Title: EU plan for Balkan market faces resistance
- Date: 7th April 2017
- Summary: BELGRADE, SERBIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) PEOPLE WALKING IN FRONT OF NATIONAL MUSEUM MONUMENT PEOPLE WALKING IN CENTRAL BELGRADE PEOPLE WALKING IN STREET SERBIAN FLAG ON GOVERNMENT BUILDING BELGRADE, SERBIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER AND PRESIDENT-ELECT ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, SAYING: "We need connecting, we need better communication, when we start working together and living together then no-one will think of wars and conflicts, we will instead think of economy and how to save what we have and what he have earned." VUCIC SEATED FOR INTERVIEW (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER AND PRESIDENT-ELECT ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, SAYING: "If we had a common market everybody would want to come because it would be a respectable market, this is not a 7, 8 million market, or 10 to 11 million market, it is a big market and they would be coming here because of the market and not because of well-skilled workers who are somewhat cheaper and the subsidies we are offering, and it goes without saying that we would be saving on all transport operational costs somewhere from 7 to 10 percent. These are significant things and excellent solutions for us."
- Embargoed: 21st April 2017 16:13
- Keywords: Balkans EU market
- Location: BELGRADE, BAJAKOVO; SERBIA/PRISTINA, MERDARE; KOSOVO/SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
- City: BELGRADE, BAJAKOVO; SERBIA/PRISTINA, MERDARE; KOSOVO/SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
- Country: Serbia
- Topics: Economic Events
- Reuters ID: LVA0016BEHDFD
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Omens are not good for the recent EU's push for common West Balkans market. While Serbia - the biggest and dominant republic in old Yugoslavia - is all for it, others are less enthusiastic.
"If we had a common market everybody would want to come because it would be a respectable market, this is not a 7, 8 million market, or 10 to 11 million market, it is a big market and they would be coming here because of the market and not because of well skilled workers who are somewhat cheaper and the subsidies we are offering, and it goes without saying that we would be saving on all transport operational costs somewhere from 7 to 10 percent. These are significant things and excellent solutions for us," Serbian prime minister who was elected president on Sunday, Aleksandar Vucic, told Reuters in an interview.
Yugoslavia imploded in war 26 years ago, spawning seven states. Now, the European Union has taken up a project put forward by Vucic that would see five of them - plus Albania - joined once more, this time in a common market.
It would abolish all remaining tariff barriers, lift obstacles to the free movement of people, commodities and services and introduce standard regulations across the region.
The EU wants an outline agreed in July, seizing on the idea as a way to re-engage with Balkan states unnerved by the bloc's evaporating enthusiasm for further enlargement and exposed to the growing influence of Russia.
But it has received a mixed reception.
Kosovo, for one, fears being roped back into a Serbian-dominated union of the kind it fought to leave; others worry it will only slow their accession to the EU, or worse still replace it.
The EU has delegated development of the plan to the Regional Cooperation Council.
For years, the prospect of EU accession has stabilised relations and driven reform in a turbulent and impoverished region.
But since Croatia followed ex-Yugoslav Slovenia in joining in 2013, the EU has been beset by problems of migration, Brexit and right-wing populism. A year later, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out any further expansion until at least 2020.
Stability and democracy in the Balkans have suffered.
One of the results is the Western Balkans Common Market, which would build on the Central European Free Trade Area, CEFTA. All six countries are members of CEFTA but the pact has struggled to stimulate trade within the region and some barriers remain.
Backers of the plan say a single economic space with a market of 20 million would be more attractive to investors than six small states each with their own red tape.
Kosovo threw off Belgrade's repressive rule in a 1998-99 war, and is wary of Serbia's clout as the biggest country in the region and a friend of Russia.
"We don't want to see a Serbia that behaves in the style of Russia, trying to politically dominate the region," Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj said of the initiative on Tuesday (April 4).
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