EU to invest 1 billion euros in Balkan infrastructure

EU to invest 1 billion euros in Balkan infrastructure

ANKARA - Anadolu Agency
EU to invest 1 billion euros in Balkan infrastructure

EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn gives a press conference with Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (R) after the Western Balkans 6 Ministerial Conference in Pristina on March 25, 2015. AFP Photo

An EU commissioner has said the European Union is committed to investing 1 billion euros in Balkan infrastructure in the coming years, in a move aiming to link the EU-aspiring countries.

“The main building block comprises a core network linking all capitals, main economic centers and major ports,” Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said March 25 at the Western Balkans 6 Conference held in Pristina, Kosovo.

“These priority links only become part of the core network if member states are able to commit to completing all related investments and other ‘soft’ measures by 2030,” he said.

Hahn said up to 130 million euros in Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPAA II) funds will be available for the 2015 multi-country program as a first step to move these projects forward.

“I say a first step because I am strongly committed to fostering connectivity both within the region and between the European Union. We are ready to commit as much as 1 billion euros from IPA II to this end,” he said.

Hahn said the EU wants to connect the Western Balkans not just through physical links such as roads and railways, but also through political and legal links.

The foreign and infrastructure ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia met at the Western Balkans 6 Conference.

The conference followed the framework of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2014 Berlin Conference, which also emphasized the EU’s commitment to the process of EU enlargement in the Balkans.

The visit by Serbian foreign and infrastructure ministers to Kosovo marks the first high-ranking visit of Serbian officials to Pristina since the 1999 Kosovo war. Although Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Belgrade has not recognized its independence.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a Facebook post on March 25 that the “Blue Highway,” which will link the coasts of Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, will be the first “fruıt” of the 2014 Berlin Conference. Countries are set to soon begin the design of the highway.

Hahn said the six countries’ prime ministers are due to meet in Brussels on April 21, in a meeting where the agreement will be officially confirmed.

“Finally, in August, we will use the Vienna Summit to present a list of specific investment priorities on energy and the regional transport core network,” he said.

All Western Balkan countries are currently engaged in negotiations with the EU and are pursuing further integration into the 28-member union.