As political jostling continues about the future of Europe, it is important to remember that there are six countries in the Western Balkans that have firmly tied their colours to the European mast.
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are all actively working towards the ultimate goal of EU membership. All six have a formal contractual arrangement with the EU through Stabilisation and Association Agreements which are all now in force.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), an international financial institution that sees cross-border integration as one of its priorities, fully supports this goal. For the countries of the Western Balkans, EU approximation does not just mean reform and investment. It also represents a vision of lasting peace and prosperity – goals that the EU itself has achieved for its member countries. Read more
By Alan Riley of City Law School
Following South Stream’s demise the Danube nations must look again at their energy vulnerability. These low income states, locked into antique energy infrastructure and facing high renewable bills, face a major energy dilemma – a dilemma shared, in a less acute form, with the rest of the European Union. One way forward is to look again at whether a deal on gas between Russia and the EU could be made to work as a means of encouraging economic growth and helping to settle the dispute over Ukraine. Read more
By Kerin Hope and Tatjana Mitevska
Another solid win for the governing right-of-centre party in Macedonia’s early parliamentary election signals it should be business as usual for companies seeking to take advantage of the Balkan country’s competitive wages and tax regime for foreign investors. Read more
The Republic of Macedonia, which is hoping for a double-digit rise in its tourism sector this year will be pleased with news of swelling passenger numbers at the country’s two international airports.
In August, a key month for tourism in the former Yugoslav republic, Skopje’s Alexander the Great Airport saw 115,000 passengers through its gates, a 23 per cent jump on the same month last year, TAV Macedonia, the airports’ operator, said this week. Read more
The phrases “south Balkan nation” and “ease of doing business” are mutually exclusive in the minds of many western business leaders. But in case you hadn’t noticed, Macedonia, the most southerly of the former Yugoslavia successor states, came in at number 23 in the latest World Bank Doing Business rankings.
Unsurprisingly, it was something Nikola Gruevski, Macedonia’s prime minister (pictured), was keen to emphasise during an official visit Budapest. Read more
A third of the population is below the poverty line and unemployment is running at more than 30 per cent. Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. That hasn’t stopped the government running a concerted and doubtless expensive campaign to promote the country as an investment destination – and as a regional poster boy for economic reform.
The tiny country of just over 2m people is indeed outperforming some of its neighbours. But translating this into job creation has proved difficult. Read more
By Philip Alexander of the Banker
When Alpha Bank (ALPHA:ATH) and EFG Eurobank Ergasias (EUROB:ATH), the second and third-largest Greek banks, unveiled a merger plan in August, it was widely hailed as the first good news out of the Athens banking sector for a long time.
The move would create the country’s largest bank by some distance, strengthen Greek banking, and bolster the Greek bank presence in the Balkans, where some countries rely heavily on Greek finance.
But now Alpha has warned that it is having second thoughts about the deal. Read more
The eurozone crisis might have left south-eastern Europe in an economic doldrums since 2009 but that has not stopped one company from seeking its fortunes in the region.
Tobacco AD, a fast-growing Macedonian convenience store chain, is betting that even in these times of financial austerity, people will continue to drink, smoke and pay their utility bills.
The Skopje-based company, with 55 stores open already in the former Yugoslav republic, is planning to raise €2m via an initial public offering to fund its expansion around the western Balkans. Read more
With the eurozone in crisis, the small states of the Western Balkans are bracing themselves for another round of pain without gain. For the immediate future, their economic destiny of will be almost totally out of their own hands.
So warns the World Bank in a report released on Tuesday. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – dubbed “SEE6” in Bank terminology – can expect to be bruised by every financial tremor in the eurozone and European Union. Read more
While Greece agonises over slashing wages, its neighbour to the north has suffered a large share of the resulting pain.
Macedonia – the former Yugoslav republic, that is – has this week closed border crossings with Greece after repeated disruptions and re-routed all traffic through other countries instead. Before the Macedonian government took the decision, strikes by Greek customs officers left cross-border travellers and numerous cars and trucks stranded on one of the main Balkan access routes to the sea. Read more