Why are the Balkans’ political leaders meeting in Geneva this week?

Serbia UN News 2018

UN Photo/Cia Pak Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Oliver Cann, Head of Media Content, World Economic Forum

As October begins, the World Economic Forum welcomes five European heads of state or government at our headquarters in Geneva. The meeting is the latest instalment of a Strategic Dialogue on the Western Balkans that began in January at our 2018 Annual Meeting in Davos, but what is it exactly that we hope to achieve?

The over-riding objective of our meeting is to assist the six economies of the Western Balkans; Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia to address the shared challenges they collectively face; boosting economic growth, improving infrastructure and the functioning of markets and attracting and retaining the talent they will need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Strategically important given their position and history, the Western Balkans Six nevertheless trail many of their European peers economically. According to our Global Competitiveness Index 2018, Albania is the most competitive among the group, ranking 75, followed by Montenegro and Serbia on 77 and 78 respectively.

This consistency can perhaps be explained by the close recent history of these economies: from the end of the Second World War until the early 1990s, five of them were part of Yugoslavia. Looking forward, their aspirations to join the European Union very much depend on their ability to raise economic growth and competitiveness levels closer to the European norm.

This week’s meeting has been designed to re-energize efforts towards this goal by rekindling the spirit of cooperation between the six economies. With an agenda focused on producing firm commitments towards common goals, there is considerable expectation that by the next time leaders meet in Davos in 2019, concrete steps will have been made towards a new regional strategy for transformation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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