Today, at the International Day of Democracy, we focus the topic on EU integration as a central theme both for our country and the Western Balkans. The emphasis is on the urgency of putting the Western Balkans countries on the fast EU accession track. In the past decade, the support of EU enlargement in the Union and the optimism for EU membership among the citizens of the Western Balkans has varied despite numerous disappointments and hardships. The EU integration remains the main strategic goal for each of the Western Balkans countries, Finance Minister Fatmir Besimi said in his opening remarks at the third Skopje Economic Finance Forum (SEFF).

Besimi referred to what it means from an economic and financial point of view to be part of the EU, and what are the key benefits and perspectives.

“New member states receive much higher cohesion funds compared to pre-accession funds, only cohesion funds compared to IPA funds are around 22 times more for the countries receivers. The budget of the EU for the next 5 years is more than 11 times higher than what we have as the candidate countries from IPA funds. We can bring more diversity, entrepreneurship approach, and all the principles of the European Union and the values,” Besimi said.

“The idea of this year’s forum is to discuss and contribute to a broader debate about the EU perspectives and how soon we will become part of the EU. We will cover the topics and how we could contribute to accelerating European and regional, economic, and political integration as well as enhancing the business environment, and market institutions and promoting economic prosperity. We will discuss geopolitics and policymaking, as well as global trends and business opportunities along the EU accession path. At the dawn of the new European day for this region, new opportunities and realistic perspectives for a higher quality of life for our citizens and future generations, the motto of this year’s conference is Europe-Yes, Europe-Now,” Besimi underlined.

He noted that EU membership, above all, means access to a market with more than half a billion consumers. That, he emphasized, ensures the encouragement of growth and convergence.

“From a microeconomic point of view, it is much easier to achieve economies of scale, which entail lower costs through higher production volumes. Thanks to the joint actions, the joint trade strategy, it is highly positioned on the global trade scene, with bilateral trade agreements ensuring the opening of new opportunities for unions,” Besimi said in the address.