Fully functional green corridors at all border crossings connecting the region with the EU can reduce border wait times by three hours, effectively decreasing border procedures by two percent across all economies. This finding comes from an analysis by the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia, published Wednesday.

Inter-regional imports among the six countries in the region account for 14 percent of total trade. Enhancing this trade exchange is one of the Growth Plan’s benefits, which aims to boost regional cooperation and remove barriers to trade, according to the Chamber.

Chamber spokesperson Vlatko Stojanovski highlighted that non-tariff barriers, such as border and security certificates, and phytosanitary certificates, are major obstacles to greater trade exchange.

“We need to address these issues. We consistently identify and emphasize them as barriers to regional trade exchange,” Stojanovski stated at the press conference for the Growth Plan and projects of the Chamber’s investment forum.

Due to a lack of a legal framework for EU countries to trade data with non-member countries, green corridors are being established at key border crossings that connect the region. New Growth Plan measures will enable complete data exchange, significantly reducing border wait times and promoting mutual recognition of economic operators’ authority.

“The benefits for our companies will be substantial. In 2023 alone, border wait times were significantly reduced due to the already established inter-regional green corridors. Fully functional green corridors at all border crossings connecting the region with the EU will cut wait times by three hours, leading to a two percent reduction in border procedures across all economies. Additionally, green corridors will ensure continuous operation of supply chains, increase trade, and make the region more attractive to investors,” Stojanovski emphasized.

The Chamber underscores the urgent need to narrow the economic convergence gap. European Commission reports indicate that Western Balkan economies are not yet at the level of a market economy capable of handling EU pressures.

“Despite proximity and other favorable factors, inter-regional exports in the region remain at just 14 percent. The EU remains the dominant export market for the Western Balkans, with many countries in the region exporting five times more to the EU than to CEFTA countries,” Stojanovski explained.

Serbia is the country’s largest trade partner for inter-regional exports, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania. Western Balkan economies predominantly trade with EU countries, exporting five times more to the EU than to Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries. Therefore, fostering inter-regional cooperation through the action plan for a single regional market is essential.

“Administrative and customs procedures, safety requirements and certificates, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and technical trade barriers are identified as the main obstacles to foreign trade. The European Commission has stated that active measures are needed to conclude mutual agreements to remove these barriers and introduce the ‘CE Mark’ for European conformity certification to align with EU product quality standards,” Stojanovski noted.

The business sector at the Chamber Investment Forum (CIF) was consulted on priority areas for accelerated EU access and received a mandate to draft a new action plan for a single regional market, serving as the foundation for promoting regional cooperation. Chamber spokesperson Sonja Nikolova presented the Chamber Investment Forum’s (CIF) new project, supported by the EU and the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, which aims to support companies in the region across several aspects. One of the project’s main goals is to increase competitiveness by creating a single regional market, reducing economic disparities, and encouraging closer economic ties between business communities within the region and the EU.

“The goal is for this region to have easier access to European and other markets. The closer companies from the region get and build on their inter-regional cooperation, the easier it will be for them to perform on the European market,” Nikolova stated.

The Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6 CIF) is a collaborative initiative of the Economic Chambers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro. It represents over 300,000 companies with the objective of connecting the business community in the region and facilitating inter-business contacts.
photo by mia