08 May 2019 - The EBRD held its 2019 Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Sarajevo on 7-8 May, throwing a spotlight on the economic opportunities in the Western Balkans, where the EBRD is a major investor.
About 2,000 delegates attended the conference, which focused on the business outlook for Western Balkan economies and on how growth in the region can be strengthened. The leaders of the six Western Balkan nations – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia – attended the conference, taking part in a high-level panel discussion that underscored the importance of regional cooperation.
Regional cooperation and integration played a key role at the Annual Meeting and Business Forum, where the theme this year was Connecting Economies for Stronger Growth. Particularly in the Western Balkans, the EBRD has placed a very high priority on promoting connectivity via its investments, to promote both physical infrastructure links as well as ties between markets that strengthen trade and improve the business climate as the countries continue on their path towards EU approximation.
The EBRD is a leading investor in the Western Balkans, providing a record level of finance of €1.1 billion in 2018, and supporting their economies’ goal of membership of the European Union.
The EBRD expects continued steady economic growth in the six Western Balkan countries in 2019, despite a cooling international economic environment which may see the pace of growth slowing in some countries in the region.
Presenting its latest economic forecasts at the EBRD’s Annual Meeting in Sarajevo, the Bank reports that Montenegro and Serbia were the fastest growing economies in the region in 2018, with both countries enjoying strong investment flows.
Commenting on the regional outlook, EBRD Lead Economist Peter Tabak said further reform efforts and stronger investment activity are needed to deliver growth required for sustainable convergence with European Union income levels. “Stronger regional integration, including through the abolition of remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade would open up new growth opportunities for domestic companies and foreign investors,” he added.
In Montenegro, growth surprised on the upside. In 2018, the economy expanded by close to five per cent, on the back of highway construction, real estate projects at the coast, an exceptionally strong tourism season and a further rise in private consumption.
As concluded at the Annual Meeting, the completion of large investment projects and continuing fiscal consolidation will lead to a significant slowdown in growth to 2.8 per cent in 2019 and 2.6 per cent in 2020.
The Annual Business Forum provided a platform for high-level discussion on themes ranging from boosting small business to the effects of migration on labour markets, the opportunities and pitfalls of tourism and ways to connect local and regional economies to the wider global economy.