Improved implementation of the reform agenda for trade and competitiveness in South-East Europe

Project description

Title: Open Regional Funds for South-East Europe – Foreign Trade in CEE/SEE
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union
Countries: Central/Eastern Europe (CEE)/South-East Europe (SEE)
Lead executing agency: Regional Cooperation Council for South-East Europe (RCC)
Overall term: 2020 to 2023

Open regional funds for South-East Europe – foreign trade promotion: One-stop-shop information system on trade facilitation © GIZ


Joining the European Union (EU) is the top political objective for the project’s partner countries in the Western Balkans. An important requirement in the process of EU convergence is the implementation of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). This agreement aims to reduce tariff and non-tariff trade barriers between countries and to strengthen trade. However, the implementation of many measures falls short of regional agreements, as several countries are making slow progress in harmonising trade-related laws and regulations with EU standards and rules. Legal and administrative barriers thus continue to make it difficult for companies to trade and become competitive. Consequent-ly, the reform agenda approved for trade and competitiveness in the CEFTA region is still insufficiently implemented.


The CEFTA parties are more effectively implementing the reform agenda for trade and competitiveness in line with the requirements of the EU convergence process.


The project consists of three fields of activity, the first two of which are cofinanced by the EU.

In field of activity 1, the project aims to strengthen the performance of the CEFTA structures, busi-nesses associations and companies. In this way, it strives to ensure that regional agreements are im-plemented under Additional Protocol 5 of the CEFTA Agreement on the Facilitation of Trade. The pro-ject supports the CEFTA structures in implementing mutual recognition programmes, such as author-ised economic operators and border documents. Simplified border procedures ultimately lead to signifi-cant time and cost savings for companies. In addition, an integrated risk management system is being established between customs and other border authorities, which will allow a smooth flow of trade while simultaneously ensuring the necessary security controls. Companies are actively involved in designing and monitoring the reforms.

In field of activity 2, the project supports public and private actors in implementing regional agreements relating to trade in services, in particular Additional Protocol 6 of the CEFTA Agreement. By strength-ening the capacity of CEFTA contact points for trade in services, the project enables them to meet the obligations laid down in the Additional Protocol. Events and information materials help to familiarise the private sector with the benefits that reforms have for trade in services. Companies can actively partici-pate in drawing up joint position papers.

  Open regional funds for South-East Europe – foreign trade promotion: Trade facilitation within CEFTA © GIZ

In the third field of activity, the project improves e conditions for company founders and e-commerce providers from the CEFTA region. The project supports economic operators in tapping international and regional markets. It advises the CEFTA parties on harmonising the legal frameworks for electronic trade in the region. In cooperation with e-commerce associations, the project also develops information and promotion offers for e-commerce providers. In addition, it strengthens the start-up and innovation ecosystem in the Western Balkans by strengthening the capacities of start-ups in the growth phase and promoting the professionalisation of start-up support organisations.

The project partners are CEFTA institutions, in particular the CEFTA Secretariat, the national CEFTA contact points and the CEFTA committees, specialist ministries, trade-relevant state authorities, private sector organisations such as chambers and e-commerce associations, public-private bodies such as national trade facilitation committees and innovation hubs to promote start-ups.

As at: April 2021

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