London, the United Kingdom (22 February 2016) — “Despite all the challenges Europe is facing, the countries of the Western Balkans have faith that a united Europe will find solutions to restore its strength and vitality. The Western Balkans with their history, culture, multiethnicity, and notable economic potential, are allies in that process. The region must remain in the focus of the European Union, fortunately, less as a problem and more as part of the solution,” Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Đukanović underlined in his address at the Western Balkans Investment Summit, taking place in London.
The integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union is, in his words, a long-term process focusing on the rule of law, building institutions, reforming societies, and accelerating economic activity. In addition to Montenegro’s EU and NATO integration accomplishments, the country is demonstrating maturity and responsibility in resolving domestic political issues, fostering tolerant dialogue of political opponents in the spirit of the best European democratic practice, PM Đukanović stated.
In parallel, the Government of Montenegro has been making efforts towards attracting investments, creating new jobs and advancing the quality of life
“We have reached the highest income per capita in the countries of the region, amounting to approx. EUR 6.000. The convergence process has been dynamic as well. The level of income per capita measured by purchasing power parity increased from 30% of the EU average in 2000 to 43% in 2015. According to the latest UN Human Development report, Montenegro is classified as a developed country,” noted Đukanović.
These results, according to the Prime Minister, are valuable, but not sufficient.
Therefore, in addition to the integration process, Montenegro has focused on boosting economic development and experienced steady growth.
“Over the last decade, foreign direct investments have accounted for 19% of GDP. Major projects are being implemented, especially in the tourism and energy sectors. Private investments, alongside good tourist seasons, contribute to economic growth, which amounted to more than 4% in 2015,” Prime Minister Đukanović explained.
However, faster, sustainable and long-run economic growth requires better linking with the developed Europe, he stressed.
“The key lies in closer and more efficient regional cooperation. As to our region, support from international financial institutions and investors is crucially important prerequisite of this process,” PM Đukanović noted.
He also commented on the important projects relating to infrastructure that may be the subject of that cooperation.
“The solution for the Western Balkans is to use their strategic position in Europe and make their road infrastructure an integral part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Well-designed transport projects with the TEN-T perspective could likely count on the EU and EBRD structural funds, as they would contribute to both local and the EU economy,” said Đukanović.
The Prime Minister reiterated that Montenegro has started the preparation and implementation of major infrastructure projects that will link Montenegro with the region and bring them closer to Europe. He in particular referred to the undersea energy cable with Italy, construction of the priority section of the Bar-Boljare highway, modernisation of the Bar-Belgrade-Budapest railway, Adriatic-Ionic corridor, and the Adriatic-Ionian Gas Pipeline (IAP), as a continuation of the Trans-Adriatic project (TAP).
Furthermore, Montenegro is ready to start negotiations with neighbouring countries on the management of river basins that flow through neighbouring countries, and the joint construction of hydro power plants, PM Đukanović stated and called on international financial institutions, including the EBRD, to participate in this lucrative business.
Montenegro’s Prime Minister is convinced that the Western Balkans need a strategic programme of major investments in “hard” and “soft” infrastructure and projects that lead to an increase in employment, particularly of young people, which is, in his words, the way for the Western Balkans region to become part of developed Europe.
Source: Government of Montenegro