Western Balkans Leaders Commit To Strengthen Economic, Social Ties To Prepare Region For Future


Four leaders from the Western Balkans region, heads of government and ministers of EU member states and neighbouring countries today set out measures to continue the ongoing dialogue on the Western Balkans and cooperation aimed at providing stability for the region and strengthening economic growth and competitiveness, and preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Leaders from Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia as well as Croatia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany and Switzerland met at World Economic Forum headquarters in Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was convened as part of the ongoing Strategic Dialogue on the Western Balkans, which began at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2018.

Specifically, the leaders set out measures in a Forum Communiqué on the Western Balkans to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, especially with respect to fostering inclusive growth, skills and talent development, boosting trade, preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, enabling public-private cooperation and empowering the next generation of leaders.

The communiqué outlines an intention to collaborate on:

  • Establishing an affiliate Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: as part of the Forum’s network of Centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this centre will help prepare the region for the fundamental economic and societal shifts presaged by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence
  • Organizing a Regional South Eastern European Summit in 2019 with all relevant leaders from the region and Europe
  • Setting up a Western Balkans Competitiveness Council to improve the region’s fundamental drivers of productivity, including better infrastructure, well-functioning markets, efficient institutions and a healthy ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Formalizing a cooperation agreement with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity
  • Opening 10 new Global Shaper hubs across the region, thereby ensuring a platform for collaboration for the next generation of leaders

Participants agreed to continue the dialogue on the Western Balkans with the objective to bring solutions to the outstanding challenges the region still faces, and will meet again during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos, Switzerland.

“The Western Balkans has often played an outsized role in the history of Europe. Today, by committing to work together on the economic and societal issues that are shaping our world, its leaders are sending a clear signal that the only way to ensure future peace, stability and prosperity is through greater openness, cooperation and collaboration,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“The Forum Communiqué on the Western Balkans we set out today marks a significant shift for the partners of the Western Balkans. By committing to work together on a path towards economic growth and societal stability, these leaders are improving the prospects not only of their own people, but also for the region as a whole,” said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.

“Serbia has been through a tough programme of reform, prioritizing education and the economy. This implementation has brought stability, but our region will only achieve long-term stability if we are able to establish a narrative of cooperation based on mutual respect and shared values,” said Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia.

Present at the meeting were: Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia; Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey; Miroslav Lajcák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic; Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister of Defence of Germany; Krystyna Marty, Deputy State Secretary and Deputy Political Director, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; Borut Pahor, President of Slovenia; Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2018; Zoran Pažin, Deputy Prime Minister for Political System, Internal and Foreign Policy and Minister of Justice of Montenegro; Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia; Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania; and Hashim Thaci, President of Kosovo*.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

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