EU unveils 9 billion euro investment plan for the Balkans

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union said Tuesday that it will invest up to 9 billion euros ($10.6 billion) in the Western Balkans to help develop transport and energy infrastructure and spur economic growth and employment in six countries of the volatile region.

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, said the funds will be invested in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia from 2021-2027. The countries have ambitions to join the EU and the funds will help bring their economies into line with the bloc’s standards

The plan will see money funneled into 10 main areas, including road and rail networks, renewable energy, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, improving waste and water management, the renovation of public buildings and the roll-out of broadband.

But Brussels expects the Balkans countries to forge ahead with political and economic reforms aimed at aligning them with EU rules and standards to get the money.

“This plan goes hand in hand with the implementation of the reforms because without the reforms it’s impossible to create the right business environment” for investors, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.

“It means they need a proper functioning rule of law system, independent judiciary, a reliable tax system that will make it interesting for (companies) to come and invest in the region,” he told reporters.

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