The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London organized a business conference, hosting the leaders of six Western Balkans countries, which aimed to highlight potential investment and business opportunities in the region and promote the inflow of foreign direct investment and cross-border projects.
Sources said that the series of meetings and events that took place during the past week aimed at examining and encouraging their economies and their alignment to the so-called West’s values and democratic systems.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is a leading institutional investor in the Western Balkans. To date, the Bank’s investments in the six countries of the region (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia) are over €10 billion in some 600 operations.
Moreover, the six leaders were welcomed to Downing Street by Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, for talks ahead of the Western Balkans Summit in London in July.
May briefed the guests on the goals of the summit, saying “Our relationship endures because all of us in this room share the same vision for the future of the Western Balkans. We want a peaceful, prosperous and democratic region – one anchored to European values and systems and contributing to European security."
“The countries of the Western Balkans have tremendous potential. By putting in place the governance, rule of law and institutions to support prosperity and by building relations between your countries that shape a promising future for all.”
Theresa May added: “At the Summit we will take forward a bold agenda; one that promotes economic stability and fosters co-operation on the security and political challenges that the region continues to face.
The leaders from the region who attended were: Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania; Denis Zvizdic, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ramush Haradinaj, Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of FYROMacedonia; Prime Minister of Kosovo; Dusko Markovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro; and Ana Brnabic, Prime Minister of Serbia.
The countries of the Balkans are preoccupied with the matter of joining the EU, and are under pressure as more demands of reform are requested as a prerequisite to be able to join the union. On February 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the EU’s demands for the Balkan states to choose between the West or Russia are counterproductive and only increase tensions on the European continent.
He stressed that countries like Russia, China and Turkey want to work in the region on an open, constructive basis, but there are attempts by the US and the EU to introduce anti-Russian elements in its Balkan policy.
He noted that “Washington and some European capitals send their emissaries to the Balkans with a specific message: ‘Do not be friends with Russia; refuse cooperation with it in all possible areas.’”