On October 2nd leaders from the Western Balkan six (Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), as well as Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany and Switzerland met in Geneva as part of the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Dialogue on the Western Balkans. This Dialogue was initiated in January 2018 in Davos with the aim of invigorating cooperation with a region that strives towards European Union integration.
The overarching goals driving this Dialogue are the same for any developing region – increasing economic growth, furthering Euro integration and speeding up infrastructure modernization. What was interesting at this meeting though was a focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a means for the region’s development. Indeed, leaders from the region and its neighboring countries set out measures in a Communication that envisages the establishment of an affiliate Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Tirana, Albania as part of a network of Centers whose mission is to act as a global hub of expertise when it comes to how science and technology can benefit society. The Communication also envisages the establishment of so-called Global Shaper hubs across the region, which would serve as a collaboration platform for the next generation of leaders.
Another concrete goal is to establish a Western Balkans Competitiveness Council which will focus on increasing the overall competitiveness of the region, especially in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Representing Croatia at the meeting was Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic who emphasized the role that public private cooperation can play when it comes to regional dialogue and development.
The Western Balkans are increasingly recognized by the international community as a region worth engaging with, especially in the context of growing external influences and migration in the EU’s neighborhood.
Next on the agenda is a Regional South East European Summit to be held in 2019.