“It is significant that the present event and none other marks the end of the Sofia Summit. These four days saw us achieving our goals – to connect the people from the Western Balkans through the economy, the social dimension, transport and energy.” With these words Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva addressed the participants of this-year’s Vienna Economic Forum held in Sofia under the motto “Politics Meet Economy”.
“A purely political membership perspective lags behind the economic relations. The European Union is the largest investor in the Western Balkans,” the Minister stressed. She added that last-year’s economic growth of the region was approximately equal to the EU average of 2.4%. “At the same time, a lot needs to be done to reach the average for the Union,” she noted. "That was the idea of the Sofia Summit: both of the Declaration adopted and of the Sofia Agenda, with its five specific activities and the commitments that the financial institutions assumed immediately after the meeting in order to fund connectivity projects."
The Bulgarian Foreign Minister cited as a successful role model the joint declaration on a form of an “energy union” that the foreign and energy ministers of the Visegrad Four, the four Balkan EU Member States and the Western Balkan countries approved just a week ago.
"This union includes all energy projects, not just the ones related to the gas transmission system, but also those related to electricity, and shows that together we can attract investments," Zaharieva said.
"This is exactly in the same vein as after the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation with the Republic of Macedonia, when the business community responded immediately and the trade of goods grew with 11 per cent within five months," Zaharieva reminded. “If we see a reconciliation among all Western Balkan states, both the investment process and the creation of jobs will happen at a faster speed,” she concluded.