The Open Balkan Initiative has shortened import and export procedures between member states by up to 50 percent, while direct taxes and fees can be 80 percent lower, which resulted in a 30-percent boost to trade in the Open Balkan region, a survey by AmChams Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia was quoted during the conference “Regional Economic Cooperation – Open Balkan: What can businesses expect?” on April 24.
“The Open Balkan Initiative is an excellent opportunity for the liberalization of flows of capital, as it would make the region more attractive to new investors, and facilitate the expansion of investments,” the president of AmCham, Stefan Lazarevic, said, adding that it’s necessary to expand the Initiative so as to include all the Western Balkan markets, in order to make economic integration even more successful.
A representative of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Nenad Djurdjevic, said that the most important achievements of the Open Balkan Initiative include shorter import and export procedures for animal and plant-based products, better cooperation between inspectorates and customs services, as well as a single labor market to be set up soon.
The U.S. ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, said that the Open Balkan is not an initiative a single state of the region could implement, but that it rather required the involvement of all of them, which was why cooperation was very important. The diplomat also suggested that the Initiative should be open to new members as well.
The survey showed that nine out of 10 companies expected stronger regional integration to create benefits from their business operations, but the respondents, even though familiar with the chief goals of the Initiatives, were unaware of specific benefits.
Free trade in goods has been improved by the Initiative, but it hasn’t addressed the free flow of capital across the region. Also, the liberalization of services started based on restricted memoranda in the domains of tourism and film, which were not legally binding.