European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined a new 4-pillar plan to bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU, announcing it as a new growth plan for the region. The idea is for the EU candidate countries to feel the benefits of EU membership before they become part of the Union, EU Ambassador to Macedonia, David Geer, told MIA in an interview.

“This is not about a different kind of membership or two-speed, or three-speed memberships, the idea is that you would become a full member of the EU, just that on your way if you are making that progress then that could be what we call an accelerated integration which would bring early benefits. For example, in this country, the average income is only 41.5 percent of the 27 member states, and productivity for workers is about 16 percent of the EU average. So, clearly there needs to be a stimulus there. The ideas put forward by President von der Leyen, which are still being developed and discussed, is to see if there are areas where they can anticipate this kind of convergence, particularly in regards to the single market so that the county can start go get the benefits of membership, before it actually joins the EU itself. So, in other words it can start to feel that benefit earlier on”, Geer explained.

top, For the average citizen in the EU, just membership of the single market, the 450 million people in that, that’s worth about 840 euros a year, just that. There are many other benefits.

“So, what governments and partners have been saying here is that we want to be a part of that, but what’s difficult for us is the process is quite long and we are not seeing the benefits arising sufficiently beforehand. You can argue about that because there is certainly foreign direct investment coming into the country as you get closer to the EU, but the Commission listened to that and had another question which is this – that for those countries join the EU it’s clear that their economy has to improve significantly in order for them to be competitive in what is a very competitive environment”, Geer said.