Open regional funds – foreign trade promotion
Title: Open regional funds for South-East Europe – foreign trade promotion
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Overall term: 2013 to 2017
The countries of South-East Europe have made great strides over the past 20 years, not only in terms of their economic and political transformation, but also as regards their integration into the global economy and harmonisation with the European Union (EU). However, despite this indisputable progress, the region continues to face major challenges. Economically, it lags far behind the countries of ‘core Europe’. Regional cooperation offers considerable potential for overcoming the economic challenges. The signing of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in 2006 marked a significant step towards regional economic cooperation and harmonisation with the EU. The region now needs to continue along this path. Although tangible progress has been made in implementing the free trade zone, there remain a great number of barriers to trade in the region and with the EU, which in turn are detrimental to competitiveness, growth and employment. Regional cooperation therefore needs to focus on further dismantling existing trade barriers and facilitating trade. Overall, the potential of regional cooperation to improve the conditions for trade and competition within the region has not yet been fully exploited.
Regional cooperation is being used successfully by the relevant business and trade institutions in the countries of South-East Europe as an instrument to improve the conditions for competitiveness and free trade.
The Open Regional Fund (ORF) for Foreign Trade Promotion promotes regional cooperation projects aimed at improving the conditions for free trade and competitiveness in the region. Each of the supported projects involves partners from at least three countries in the region. The ORF then works with these partners to plan and implement the projects. In addition to networking the partners involved, the projects build the capacities and skills of the participating institutions and individuals to enable them to press ahead together with dismantling trade barriers and facilitating trade within the region as well as with the EU. Cooperation at regional level enables the dissemination of successful approaches from South-East Europe and the EU, which leads to improvements at country level. The partners are mainly state authorities responsible for trade and the free trade agreement, private sector organisations and regional networks of public and private sector institutions.
Thanks to the work of the ORF, ministries of economic affairs and authorities are now in a position to better prioritise and dismantle barriers to trade. For example, in cooperation with the national ministries of economic affairs, the project has established a reporting system which allows the countries to report and monitor barriers to trade. This increases transparency and puts pressure on governments to remove the barriers. The ORF has also helped to improve services for trading companies. With just a few clicks of the mouse on the CEFTA Trade Portal, which was set up with the support of the ORF, businesses can access all information relevant to the import and export of goods, saving them both time and money. In addition, regional cooperation is being established as a successful tool with which to pursue common interests. Regional IT associations, for instance, are now cooperating with one another and marketing their products jointly on target markets in Europe. These examples illustrate how the work of the ORF has improved the conditions for trade and competition on the one hand, while contributing to the countries’ harmonisation with the EU on the other.