Head of the Brussels Office of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) Dusan Reljic believes that the Western Balkan countries should be supported in catching up with Europe economically and socially, where the EU would create the possibility for the candidate countries to receive grants in the same amount Croatia and other countries receive as EU members.
The reason for that is that most of the economic development in countries such as Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania is based precisely on EU grants. Croatia, for example, according to the EU budget for 2020 is getting grants worth eight billion euros, Reljic told the European Western Balkans website.
Reljic pointed out that the governments of the Western Balkan countries attract foreign investment by subsidizing them through various types of financial support financed by the region's citizens, which is particularly the case in Serbia and North Macedonia.
In his words, that means the citizens of those countries pay to get foreign investments which do not, in fact, support smart development, but rather support development based on cheap labor.
Reljic underscored that this lay at the heart of the problem in the relationship between the EU and the region and that it should be at the forefront of any further debate on mutual relations, instead of new bureaucratic creations and the making of a new enlargement strategy.
Saying that Serbia has economic growth of between three and 3.5 percent, Reljic added that with twofold higher growth it would need 30 years to catch up with the European average.