The European Parliament approves the plan of 6 billion euros for the Western Balkans

2024-04-24 15:02:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

The European Parliament approves the plan of 6 billion euros for the Western

The European Parliament approved on Wednesday the plan for economic growth in the Western Balkans, worth 6 billion euros, in its penultimate session before the new EU elections in June.

This is one of the European Union's most ambitious packages to help economic growth and reforms in the six countries of the Western Balkans, so that they can move forward more quickly towards full integration into the bloc.

Now, after the European Parliament approved the package, it must also be formalized by the EU Council. After that, the first payments to the beneficiaries can begin.

The package contains 6 billion euros, of which the countries of the Western Balkans will receive 2 billion euros in the form of cash without return, while 4 billion euros in the form of favorable loans.

According to the agreement between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, which is included in the text of today's resolution in the Parliament, in order to benefit from this financial assistance, the countries of the region must fulfill a series of not so easy criteria.

Among them are the basic criteria, which apply equally to all member countries. They relate to the rule of law, respect for the principles of democracy, institutional reforms and taking the necessary steps to ensure that the funds are not misused.

Besides the criteria related to reforms and the rule of law, there are also criteria of a political nature.

For Kosovo and Serbia, another prerequisite will be the constructive engagement in the normalization of relations between them. Assessments of whether Kosovo or Serbia fulfill this criterion or not will be given by the European Commission, which - assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS), which also plays the main role in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia - will evaluate in the end if Kosovo and Serbia have fulfilled this prerequisite

The European Parliament, even through today's decision, asks all the countries of the Western Balkans to adapt their foreign policies to the decisions of the EU, including the sanctions against Russia. However, during the negotiations with the Council, there were disagreements as to whether this should be a specific condition or not for payments from the European plan for economic growth.

The position of the European Commission and a larger number of member states has dominated that this should not be a specific precondition, but only a general goal.

The countries of the Western Balkans, which will benefit from this aid, must have operational plans for reforms and coordinate them with the European Commission. The European Commission and the EU member states through the Council will be involved in the final decisions on payments.

Transparency is also required in the procurement process and serious investigations in cases of violation of rules, or in case of fraud. Cases of misuse are required to be reported to the EU Public Prosecution Office and the EU Fraud Prevention Office (OLAFD).

According to the text approved today in the European Parliament, entities that are identified as violators of sanctions against Russia, or that help to circumvent them, should be excluded from the possible use of these funds.

On behalf of the European Parliament, the negotiations were led by Toni Picula and Karlo Resler, two MEPs from Croatia, one from the ranks of the Socialists and Democrats and the other from the European People's Parties. Both have said that this package is of particular importance and can help the countries of the Western Balkans to create new jobs, grow their economy and invest in programs that are in line with EU priorities. such as clean energy and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The European Parliament has insisted that this package be separate and not part of the Pre-Accession Instruments (IPA), which are regular EU funds for countries involved in the enlargement process.

These six billion additional euros for the Balkan countries will be for the period from 2024 to 2027, as long as the current multi-year financial framework of the European Union lasts.

Diplomatic sources in Brussels have told Radio Free Europe that the European Commission has ambitions for the first payments to the countries of the Balkan region from this package to be made very quickly, as early as in the second half of this year. But, before this happens, it must be established that the countries that want to benefit have met the conditions for such a thing./ CNA

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