Dragica Sekulić
Country: Montenegro

Dragica Sekulić

Dragica Sekulić (Serbian Cyrillic: born 1980) is a Montenegrin politician, former Minister of Economy of the Duško Marković cabinet from 28 November 2016 to 4 December 2020. Born in Podgorica, she is member of Democratic Party of Socialists and graduated from the University of Montenegro Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

PC CREDIT: Dragica Sekulic; Source: Montenegrin Government

A year of opportunity for the Balkans

LThe fact that the Western Balkans is being increasingly prioritised on the European agenda is no longer sufficient To achieve real progress in EU integration, the Western Balkan countries need a clearly defined plan that includes a concrete timeframe for all six countries, writes LankMark Forum. To evaluate the Western Balkans enlargement process and to analyse structural challenges, it is necessary to know and understand the region’s complicated history and look at the bigger picture. The timing of this article is not coincidental. The Bulgarian Council presidency has brought the accession discussion for the Western Balkans back to the centre of the EU’s agenda and it is only logical and part of the larger strategy that the subsequent Romanian, Austrian and Croatian Presidency do their utmost to finish what my country started. Anyone who takes a look at a map of the EU can clearly see there is a gaping hole smack in the middle of the Union, between Italy and Greece. It is a remarkable reminder of one of our greatest defeats as Europeans to date: the war in the Western Balkans, with the horrific toll of civilian victims and ethnic cleansing in the 90s. The European unification process is a political project. It rose from the ashes of the Second World War with the main aim to create peace between European nations, who have been at war for more than 1000 years. Its huge success has been the peace and prosperity it brought to former arch enemies such as France and Germany. Its failure was that it did not prevent the outbreak of the war in the Western Balkans. We had to wait for America to intervene in order to be able to negotiate the later Dayton peace accords which ended the hostilities. The Western Balkans enlargement processes started with the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and have been interrupted by conflict. The development has been determined by the political concepts that are leading the region with respect to EU integration. The regional political process that has been set in motion has now conditioned and oriented the Western Balkans towards an integration into the existing Euro-Atlantic structures. In full knowledge that the strategic aim is a full EU membership. The process should be more swift and dynamic because it involves the same principles and values that are also closely linked to the regional interests. However, the Western Balkans are currently on very different development levels with respect to their integration into the EU. Countries from the region continue to face both political and economic challenges. In large part, this is due to the inability to resolve all regional confrontations and achieve full political consensus. These challenges could deter the necessary political and economic reforms and the overall process of EU integration. The integration process depends on the ability of the candidate countries to preserve democratic governance, political stability, human rights and have a functioning market economy. It is important to note that EU’s Copenhagen membership criteria are necessary, but we also need a holistic approach to the region. Let us not forget the accession process of the Eastern Balkans in the early 2000s. Neither Romania nor Bulgaria entirely fulfilled all the Copenhagen criteria. But the EU15 decided that we need to compromise and win these important countries on the Black Sea before they fall back into the influence zone of third countries. In retrospect and in light of the current unstable global situation, this was a good decision, to say the least. Bulgaria, as a trusted EU member now, can play a crucial role in easing tensions between the Western Balkan countries by exporting its unique ethnic model, which has been a founding stone of our Euro-Atlantic integration. On that score, the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia in May should produce an honest and objective assessment of progress made by the region’s six countries but also offer them a realistic plan for their path to EU membership. We have not had an EU-Western Balkans summit since June 2003 in Thessaloniki. The lack of an unequivocal commitment to the region was rather discouraging to the countries there. Moreover, the declaration from the Thessaloniki meeting concluded with the following: “We have agreed to meet periodically at our level, within the framework of an EU-Western Balkan Forum, in order to discuss issues of common concern, to review progress of the countries of the region in their road to Europe, and to exchange views on major developments in the EU.” This political pledge has not been fulfilled in the ensuing 15 years and the upcoming summit in Sofia is an opportunity to restart the active EU-Western Balkans dialogue. Like with Bulgaria and Romania before, there is a very real threat of losing these countries into the influence sphere of other extremely active players from outside the region. It is in the deep strategic interest of the EU not to allow that. The new EU enlargement strategy outlined this year is another important step on the long road to accepting the Western Balkans into the European fold. The fact the Western Balkans is being increasingly prioritised on the European agenda, is hardly sufficient, in order to solve the existing problems there. To achieve real progress, countries need a clearly defined plan that includes a concrete timeframe for all six countries, otherwise, the approach of distinguishing between frontrunners and outsiders may breed deeply-seated prejudices in the European community that would be hard and painful to overcome. On the other hand, it is important that the countries of the region continue to implement major reforms, so they can meet the required standards on their path to the EU. The governments must demonstrate resolve and a strong commitment to the enlargement process because a sensibly managed process is in the interest of both the EU and the countries of the Western Balkan. The Western Balkans and the EU have a shared geography, history and present challenges. Today it is our responsibility to accept the Western Balkans into the EU. The historical contradictions in the region, best described in the first Carnegie report “Unfinished Peace”, can only be resolved by means of the full membership of all six countries through a wisely and prudently guided enlargement process. It is time to forgive Serbia for past sins and lead it into our midst. They belong to Europe! Simultaneously, we need Bosnia to forgive all of us for silently watching while their husbands and sons were slaughtered in Srebrenica and elsewhere. That also means measuring different realities with different measures. We should not hit the brakes and restrict ourselves when it comes to the EU enlargement, but rather motivate the current and future member states to work hard for a comprehensive process of mutual benefit.

Beijing: Montenegro and China sign Memorandum of understanding within "Belt and Road“ initiative

PC CREDIT: foto: gov.me

Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulić signed yesterday the Memorandum of understanding between the governments of Montenegro and China within the framework of Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road Initiative. Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulić and Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China He Lifeng signed the memorandum aimed at implementing the "Belt and Road“ initiative and promoting cooperation between the two countries. Having in mind the established political consensus between Montenegro and China to promote the “Belt and Road” initiatives, the parties under this memorandum will join forces to create synergy between the “Belt and Road” initiative and national development strategies in order to improve coordination of policies and boost cooperation for peaceful development and common prosperity of both countries. This Initiative will help the two countries boost cooperation and reach goals set out within this framework, thus creating an opportunity for exchanging experience and development of exchange programmes. The parties under this memorandum are set to intensify cooperation, boost ties and joint efforts towards establishing economic corridors and promoting development of the region. At the opening of the forum, President of China Xi Jinping made opening remarks regarding the importance of the Silk Road, stressing that the initiative is widening horizons and chances for prosperity. “Belt and Road” initiative has invested 4 billion dollars so far, President Jinping highlighted, adding that the idea is to pursue this good trend in the coming period. He also explained that the China’s banking system will develop new forms of loans aimed at helping countries engaged in the initiative reach funds for investment projects. In the next three years, China will provide 3 billion yuan to the developing countries which are members of the Initiative, he pointed out. Western Balkans leaders meet to drive coronavirus recovery and deepen regional economic cooperation Leaders from the Western Balkans Six—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia—participated in the Western Balkans Partnership Summit on July 29 to take steps to deepen regional economic cooperation and stimulate growth amid the widespread economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Convened by the Atlantic Council, the summit provided an opportunity for the Western Balkans Six to adopt measures to stimulate economic recovery, boost the region’s long-term competitiveness, and strengthen its attractiveness for potential investors. According to Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, the leaders agreed to several key measures that will help remove the obstacles to economic cooperation and drive future growth and investment in the region. Wilson highlighted that the leaders are seeking to “implement the European Union’s Four Freedoms of movement, goods, services, capital, and people,” in part by making permanent so-called “green lanes” which were put in place during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic to help expedite the transport of essential goods to and between the region, and also seeking to expand the concept to encompass more goods. The leaders’ also placed emphasis on the need to improve infrastructure at border crossings to facilitate these new measures and to “remove barriers to live, study, work, and visit throughout the region, Wilson said. Many of the leaders saw the long wait times at borders for goods and travelers as a huge impediment to the region’s prospects for growth and competitiveness. “Our trucks wait at internal borders for 26 million hours annually,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić explained, arguing that “we can save up to 7 percent of operational costs if we can cut all of these bureaucratic procedures and everything else.” Zoran Tegeltija, chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressed that these delays also negatively impact tourism, which is a growing sector in much of the region. “We have a situation where somebody from our neighboring countries or EU countries need several hours to come to Bosnia and Herzegovina to have their vacation,” he explained. Stevo Pendarovski, president of North Macedonia, highlighted Skopje’s recent agreement with neighboring Greece as an example of how a focus on removing these economic barriers can help drive growth and trade. Through the 2018 Prespa agreement, he explained “North Macedonia and Greece agreed to institutionalize a structured dialogue regarding among other issues border procedures, bureaucratic impediments, and free flow of goods, services, people, and capital,” that mirrors what the Western Balkans Six have discussed. He noted that in the period after the Prespa Agreement was signed there was a “clear increase in the trade between Greece and North Macedonia and also between Greece and the rest of the European Union market but going through our land.” As governments and international organizations are committing new funds to help economies weather the storm of COVID-19, the leaders also discussed identifying “a substantial set of shovel-ready investment projects so recovery funds and future investment can be deployed swiftly and effectively,” Wilson explained. These projects could help unlock latent economic potential in the region, as Avdullah Hoti, prime minister of Kosovo, noted that “we still do not have full infrastructure links.” The summit’s conclusions demonstrate, however, that “there is a full willingness among all leaders of the region to work together to try to remove these [economic] barriers immediately and to engage in large scale projects that would link our capitals,” Hoti added. In addition to the Western Balkans Six, the summit also included representatives from European governments, the European Union, and the US administration. While the measures to speed up border crossings and invest in infrastructure may seem small in a region that is still plagued by deep political divisions, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama argued that “the series of small things, the steps one by one that we have envisaged as part of this big dream of regional development through peace and cooperation are crucial and are more crucial now than they were before the pandemic.” Indeed, Wilson admitted that “the region was already facing headwinds before this historic pandemic hit,” and noted that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development identified the Western Balkans as one of the regions that could be the hardest hit economically by the crisis. “Demanding times demand bold action,” he argued, but added that the Summit’s deliberations prove that “the leaders recognize that working together is part of the answer and that is significant.” The July 29 Western Balkans Partnership Summit will also build momentum for the next summit of the Berlin Process to be held in the fall in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Berlin Process aims to help facilitate the accession progress of the Western Balkans to the European Union. Dragica Sekulić, minister of economy for Montenegro, stressed the “importance that all the regional initiatives are brought into mutual harmony and that in each of them we recognize a chance for further progress to achieve the standards required for full membership in the Union and accession to the EU single market.” She added that the region should aim to build cooperation that “will speed up the EU accession process for each of us based on the individual merits.” As the Western Balkans Six look to transform their region and join the European Union, the initial small steps to unlock their common economic potential could not only help mitigate the short term effects of the current coronavirus crisis, but advance them down the path of full European integration

Dragica Sekulić for CdM: There was a legal way and economic justifiability to save MA, but there was no political will for that

The Government of Montenegro and the Agency for the Protection of Competition have found themselves tangled in some implausible and illogical explanations of reasons for their hasty actions which caused the national airline’s aircraft to be grounded, and it is still unclear what is it that the Government acted upon, or how come that what the Government claims is not claimed by the EU, says Ms Dragica Sekulić, Former Minister of Economy. She reminds of the Law on consolidation and investment in the company for passenger and cargo air transport Montenegro Airlines adopted at the end of 2019, which governs conditions, means, and procedures of settling the Company’s debts to third persons, sources, and the manner to provide funds for this purpose, for the sake of maintaining the Company’s liquidity, and business sustainable and stable, as well as other issues important for the development of the Company which affects the economic development of Montenegro. Apart from that, Montenegro opened the last pre-accession chapter 8 at the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels on 30th June, the very chapter that refers to competition and market. Since we were at that time applying the law for 6 six months, the European Commission would not have agreed to open the negotiation on competition if we had been in direct breach of the rules of the competition and open market, she said. She also said that the European Commission was well informed of all the details regarding Montenegro Airlines both in the regular communication within the preparation for the opening of the chapter and in the direct communication between the Prime Minister Mr Duško Marković and the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Mr Olivér Várhelyi. Mr Prime Minister explained in detail the importance of the airline for our economy, which for its role cannot be observed from the regulatory framework only. Asked about whether it was mentioned that the Agency for Protection of Competition claimed that the Government had not provided it with the full documentation, she said that it was mentioned, and added that the Agency did not bring the decision even though all required documents had been submitted. “Here is the letter for you to publish. There is nothing there to be hidden.”


The letter by Mr Marković to Mr Várhelyi Ms Sekulić claims that the Agency for Protection of the Competition did not lack a legal framework to act in accordance with, as two more laws had been passed in preparation for the opening of chapter 8: Law on Protection of Competition and the Law on State Aid Control, and it was done in 2018. The Council of the European Union stated that, as far as state aid is concerned, the legislative framework in Montenegro is largely harmonized with Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the relevant acquis. Deloitte, the company for accounting and financial analyses, analyzed two possible scenarios – first: implementing of the planned investments by the State and second: bankruptcy proceedings. Deloitte’s conclusion was that in the case of rescuing Montenegro Airlines State would have a return of €17.8 and that in case of bankruptcy €2.8 can be collected. Another company, PricewaterhouseCoopers – PWC, was also hired to make a similar analysis, and the results were also favourable, she said.

PC CREDIT: Mr Marković (GOV.ME/S.Matic)

Deloitte’s analysis states that the largest creditors of Montenegro Airlines are the State of Montenegro, the Airports of Montenegro and Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Control – SMATSA, as well as the Mortgage Bank, and excluded the possibility of participation in the procedure by the Airports of Montenegro, which are the property of the state of Montenegro, and SMATSA, which is the property of Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia, as it would not be in accordance with market practice. “There are three important things here to be mentioned. First, by issuing the Decision, the Agency for Protection of Competition did not finally decide on the compliance of the Law on Consolidation with the Law on State Aid Control. Secondly, the Government nevertheless, on the basis of such an opinion of the Agency, did what it did, grounded our planes, left our numerous citizens and foreigners to roam the European airports, drove Montenegro Airlines employees to the labor office, and caused immeasurable damage to Montenegrin tourism and the State. And third, if two people from the Agency’s Council can give an opinion refuting the views of one of the world’s leading consulting companies, then the questions are why these companies exist at all and why we are dealing with Montenegro Airlines, tourism, reforms and everything else, instead of exporting the expertise and knowledge of the two people from the Council of the Agency for Protection of Competition. Anyway, there was both lawful solution and economic justifiability for the national flag-carrier to be saved. But, obviously, there was no political will for that,” concluded Ms Sekulić.

Dragica Sekulić, Montenegrin Economy Minister

Preparing for EU Membership Responsibly he Government of Montenegro is continuously building the country as an attractive investment destination, with the aim of attracting large investors, and confirmation that Montenegro really is a safe destination for investment is provided by stable progress on the road to the European Union and the country recently joining NATO. Montenegro has made significant progress in the past year with regard to several negotiating chapters that relate to your sector. What does this progress mean specifically when it comes to the institutional framework and practise? When it comes to negotiating chapters in the Ministry of Economy, Montenegro this year closed one chapter temporarily (Chapter 30 – External Relations) and opened one chapter (Chapter 1 – Free Movement of Goods), which I consider as being extremely important steps in the entire negotiation process. Through the coordinated work of a large number of officials in various institutions of the system, the Ministry of Economy has done a tremendous amount of work when it comes to these two chapters and their opening or closing is confirmation that the Montenegrin market is increasingly prepared to become part of the EU market. According to announcements of the European Commission President, Montenegro and Serbia could be the first new EU member states among the countries of the Western Balkans. How prepared is the domestic economy to be ready for such a big change in a relatively short time? The path to the EU is equally as important as the membership itself because it is during negotiations that all the changes that are the reasons we are seeking to become full members take place. And the entire negotiating process represents a kind of preparatory period for the economy in terms of what is expected from joining the Union, given the fact that with membership in the EU trade policy is taken on in its entirety. I consider that actually entering the EU itself will be confirmation that our economy was ready to accept, or rather has already accepted, what is brought by the membership. In this context, how do you assess the competitiveness of the domestic economy within the European framework, and which EU Member States are your role models? Montenegrin companies, but also entrepreneurs generally in the Western Balkan region, have been able to improve their business today more than ever.

PC CREDIT: foto: Ministarstvo ekonomije

When I say this, I’m thinking of the fact that Montenegrin businessmen have the possibility of utilising state assistance that we provide through various support programmes, and then a significant number of them use and take advantage of EU pre-accession funds and, finally, today more than ever businesspeople have the possibility to interconnect. This last point is perhaps the key when it comes to competitiveness in European frameworks. Today, in these times of globalisation, the issue of connectivity is crucial. However, in order to enable trade and economic integration, we must create all the prerequisites for high-quality infrastructure connectivity in the areas of transport and energy. That is why we are initiating and advocating stances, above all, on regional connectivity that will contribute to the greater competitiveness of our economy within the European framework. As for the role models you mentioned, it is healthiest to observe individual elements within each of the economies of EU countries and to strive to take on that which is compatible with your economy. The experiences of Slovenia and Croatia are extremely valuable to us. What are the key measures of the government and ministries when it comes to strengthening the sector of the domestic economy and what kind of feedback do you receive from businessmen during the Business Caravan? The Ministry of Economy has been implementing numerous economic support programmes for many years, and this year we decided that the Business Caravan would be a way for us to better familiarise businesspeople with the opportunities for support that we offer. Alongside that, for the next year’s budget, we plan to support the economy with €2 million intended for direct investments, the development of clusters, the introduction of innovations and international standards in operations and the modernisation of industry and for the business zone project. Tax reforms don’t bring new burdens on the economy, rather, on the contrary, we are considering the possibility of reducing the burden of income tax Montenegro has shown in the previous period that it is an interesting destination for attracting new investors. To what extent are investors who already do business here satisfied with the business environment and what do you do in order to encourage them to reinvest? We are continuously building Montenegro as an attractive investment destination, with the aim of attracting large investors, and confirmation that Montenegro really is a safe destination for investment is our stable road towards the European Union and the country recently joining NATO. Foreign investors who operate in Montenegro know that they have a credible partner in our state and we intend to maintain such a reputation and further improve it by creating an even more competitive business environment.

PC CREDIT: Foto: Pobjeda/I. Božović

Montenegro has one of the most competitive tax systems in the region: the corporate tax rate of nine per cent is at the lowest level in the region. In addition to this, the Government has created numerous financial and technical support programmes for domestic and foreign businesspeople, which are realised on the principle of subsidies, refunding part of funds or exemptions, or reducing charges and taxes – depending on the programme itself. The most favourable incentives at present are based on the Decree on incentives for direct investments, which enables financial incentives for new investments directed towards the creation of new jobs, especially in less developed areas of Montenegro. Funds for investment incentives, which range from €3,000 to €10,000 per new employee, are distributed on the basis of a submitted application in response to a public advertisement that we announce annually, and that applies for investment projects with an investment value ranging from €250,000 to €500,000, depending on the region, and which provides for the employment of at least 10 to 20 newly employed persons within a deadline of three years from the date of the conclusion of the contract on the use of funds with the Government of Montenegro. For capital investments with a value exceeding €10 million and which provide for the creation of jobs for at least 50 new employees within a deadline stipulated in the contract on the use of funds for stimulating investments, incentives can be awarded for a value of up to 17 per cent of the total value of the investment project, without the implementation of a points-scoring procedure. Continuing with the challenges currently confronting the economy, how have fiscal consolidation measures impacted on the country’s economic dynamism? It has been shown that the economic policy measures of the Montenegrin Government have yielded very good results on the economic and developmental fronts in the past year. The expected real growth of the Montenegrin economy exceeds the planned level significantly; in the first six months, we recorded growth of 4.2%, while 2.7% had been planned. In the second quarter alone, growth was an impressive 5.1%, which is one of the highest rates in Europe. What is very important is that even in the period of demanding fiscal consolidation, which implied increasing the rates of certain taxes, we succeeded in retaining the competitiveness of our tax system and we work to ensure the measures implemented are in no way detrimental to the operations of businesspeople. In your opinion, will Montenegro be in a position to maintain relatively high GDP growth rates despite policies of saving and to what extent do the major infrastructure projects you are implementing contribute to this dynamic? Real GDP growth of 4.2% generated in the first half of the year, which, as I said, exceeded even our own expectations, was greatly stimulated by the more intensive implementation of works on the construction of large infrastructure projects, and here I’m primarily referring to the construction of the highway, local infrastructure and tourist capacities. We are in constant communication with businesspeople, because that’s the only way we can know where additional efforts should be exerted for the investment environment to be even better Additionally, a record tourist season, or significant growth in tourism, had a major impact on the real growth of the Montenegrin economy. On the basis of results achieved and current estimates, we expect real GDP growth to total four per cent by the end of this year, while next year we expect real GDP growth of three per cent. As has been the case to date, growth will be based on large investment projects in strategic sectors of our economy. After a long period of uncertainty, it is now clear that Italian company A2A, which – after the state – is the largest shareholder of Electric Power Industry of Montenegro (EPCG), is withdrawing from the ownership of this company. What precisely does this mean for this company and Montenegro’s energy sector? The change in the ownership structure EPCG in no way changes the fact that this company was and remains a pillar of the Montenegrin electro-energy system and that it has enough expertise in its structure to lead development policy in the field of energy. Notwithstanding the fact that the entry of Italian company A2A into the ownership structure of EPCG in 2009 had positive effects for Montenegro, or for its energy and economic sectors, I consider that EPCG is today an enterprise that can independently, or in some new partnership if such a decision is taken, successfully carry out strategic policies in the field of energy. How much progress has been made on the project to construct the second block of the Thermal Power Plant in Pljevlja? Negotiations for the implementation of this project are continuing and in the upcoming period we expect the Steering Committee for Project Design to be determined according to the offered technical-financial-legal aspects of Škoda Prague and General Electric, and in accordance with that define further activities and alternatives. Regardless of the ongoing negotiations, the current state of the electrical energy sector can undoubtedly develop through the economically and ecologically justified use of coal and electricity production in the Pljevlja area, and we will enable that not only through the construction of a new production facility, but also through certain investments in the existing Block I. A question was recently raised over whether acceptance of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change calls into question the reconstruction of the existing block and the construction of a new block at this thermal power plant. What do your figures show? The Paris Agreement does not exclude or prohibit signatories that are largely EU members from realising the full value of their thermal energy potential, but rather only requires the use of such technologies that will minimise the negative impacts of thermal energy. The creation of the new production facility in Pljevlja will provide a tangible contribution in the joint fight against the negative impacts of climate change by gradually eliminating the negative impact of existing ways of utilising coal and working in accordance with the highest European standards when it comes to environmental protection.


Foreign investors who operate in Montenegro know that they have a credible partner in our state and we intend to maintain such a reputation and further improve it


Our basic aim is to enable our economy, through the fulfilling of obligations contained in every chapter, to adequately prepare for everything that awaits it on the European market following accession


Our goal is to reduce the budget deficit by implementing fiscal reforms and to enter into a budget surplus by as early as 2020

Outstanding Achievements
Western Balkans leaders agree to bold actions to help region recover from COVID pandemic

Today, leaders from the Western Balkan Six – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia – joined together at the Western Balkans Partnership Summit to adopt practical measures to deepen regional economic cooperation and recovery measures to counter the COVID-19 economic crisis. The leaders’ decisions will serve to stimulate economic recovery, boost the region’s long-term competitiveness, and strengthen its attractiveness for investors. US, European, and key institution representatives joined the support the leaders’ decisions. The summit’s achievements include a renewed regional commitment to implementing free movement for goods, services, capital and people; removing barriers that hinder economic growth; and identifying shovel-ready infrastructure investment projects so recovery funds and future investment can be deployed swiftly and effectively. These projects would focus on infrastructure to support green energy efforts, the digital economy, and job creation. The commitments today will help produce a successful summit this fall as part of the Berlin Process. Specifically, the leaders agreed to make permanent the so-called green lanes established during the lockdown to ensure the unobstructed flow of all goods and priority passage for essential goods; and to expand the green lane concept to more goods and to EU neighbors of the Western Balkan Six when they meet again in Sophia this fall. They agreed to tackle these issues together and work regionally, making relevant bilateral or multilateral agreements open to all. They also pushed to make this effort visible to citizens by removing barriers to live, study, work, and visit through the region. The leaders also welcomed a commitment from the US Development Finance Corporation to prioritize investment in the region. Today’s summit, which was convened virtually by the Atlantic Council, resulted in a chair’s statement endorsed by all leaders. The full text of the statement can be found here. The primary objective of the summit was overcoming the economic challenges resulting from the fragmentation of the region. Barriers to the free movement of goods, services, and people have held back the regional economy and trade with EU member states, with goods spending as much as 80 percent of shipping time idling at border crossings. While the pandemic is depressing economic activity, economic integration could boost regional economies by as much as 10 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and bring the region and its companies closer to the EU Internal Market. In addition, the leaders committed to a plan designed to attract new investment in the region and accelerate the deployment of committed COVID-19 recovery funds.

Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo said:

“I welcome the initiative of the Atlantic Council to provide a platform for the countries of the Western Balkans to discuss and agree on concrete measures that will foster economic growth and foreign investment across the region. Regional cooperation is not a substitute for European integration, but rather an important preparatory step that helps our countries prepare for accession to the European Union. As an equal member of the Western Balkans Six, Kosovo is committed to contributing to regional economic cooperation.” I welcome the initiative of the Atlantic Council to provide a platform for the countries of the Western Balkans to discuss and agree on concrete measures that will foster economic growth and foreign investment across the region. Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti of Kosovo

President Stevo Pendarovski of North Macedonia said:

“We fully support regional cooperation, and the economic agenda should lead before the political or security issues which occupied us for such a long time. Economic initiatives are very important because they are remedies for the biggest problem of our societies: people leaving the Balkans, primarily looking for a better economic future for their families. We have to find a solution for this challenge and one of the ways to improve the economic parameters of our countries is through regional cooperation. “We must not allow the EU perspective to remain unclear or distant in the future. The integration limbo has been historically proven to be the worst case scenario for the Balkans. It has always created a space for the unproductive geopolitical competition of the local players and world powers.” We have to find a solution for this challenge and one of the ways to improve the economic parameters of our countries is through regional cooperation. President Stevo Pendarovski of North Macedonia

Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania said:

“I proposed that leaders meet virtually on a monthly basis to take stock at the highest level on the implementation of the commitments taken today. In addition, I highlighted the importance of digital connectivity and broadband infrastructure for the unleashing of our economic potential and bringing the region closer to the Euro-Atlantic community, economically as well as politically.” I proposed that leaders meet virtually on a monthly basis to take stock at the highest level on the implementation of the commitments taken today. Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania

Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulić of Montenegro said:

“Our message is very simple: when we cooperate regionally, let’s do it in a way that will speed up the EU Accession process for each of us, based on individual merits.” Our message is very simple: when we cooperate regionally, let’s do it in a way that will speed up the EU Accession process for each of us, based on individual merits. Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulić of Montenegro

Chairman of the Council of Ministers Zoran Tegeltija of Bosnia and Herzegovina said:

“The coronavirus pandemic-caused crisis pointed at the need for closer regional, as well as international, cooperation with the European Union. As the people most responsible for our economies, which are small and interdependent, yet also dependent on partners in the European Union, were are expected to take a swift and decisive action in order to start an investment cycle and have our citizens assured of our determination for fast progress and an expeditious response to the crisis. “Encouraged by the latest developments in Brussels, I welcome an agreement made by the EU leaders and expect considerable support within the agreed-to EU financial package for projects to be defined jointly. This way, the European Union can demonstrate once again that the Western Balkans is a part of Europe and that Europe is interested in the Western Balkans countries’ integration to the European Union. Our task and obligation are to work in an accelerated fashion on defining and implementation of joint measures and finally show the results thereof to our citizens.”

Our task and obligation are to work in an accelerated fashion on defining and implementation of joint measures and finally show the results thereof to our citizens.

Chairman of the Council of Ministers Zoran Tegeltija of Bosnia and Herzegovina

President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia said:

““For the first time, there are no big politics. Everything comes to the economy. We do understand the political differences between us, but if we want to resolve political problems, we have to resolve economic ones first. We have to bring our citizens closer, we have to raise the level of economic responsibility, and thereby the living standards of our citizens will go up. That’s why Serbia is committed to working on concrete steps towards faster developing of common economic market.” We have to bring our citizens closer, we have to raise the level of economic responsibility, and thereby the living standards of our citizens will go up. President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia Experts from the Atlantic Council will work with a robust network of partners in the region to build upon the momentum of today’s summit.

Damon Wilson, Atlantic Council Executive Vice President, said:

“Through the Atlantic Council’s Balkans Forward Initiative, we are committed to fostering a more prosperous Western Balkans that is part of the transatlantic community. Today’s summit marks a major step in that direction as the region confronts a critical moment in the wake of COVID-19. I was inspired to see a shared vision for economic growth through cooperation from the region’s leaders, and the Atlantic Council will continue to provide its full support to help the Western Balkans meet its economic potential.”

I was inspired to see a shared vision for economic growth through cooperation from the region’s leaders, and the Atlantic Council will continue to provide its full support to help the Western Balkans meet its economic potential.

Damon Wilson, Atlantic Council Executive Vice President The Western Balkan Six leaders were joined by representatives from the US Department of State, the US Development Finance Corporation, the US National Security Council, the European Commission, the Regional Cooperation Council, the European External Action Service, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, and the Western Balkan 6 Chambers of Commerce Investment Forum

Economy Minister Dragica Sekulić at Western Balkans Summit: Montenegro is stable and safe investment destination

ontenegro is safe, economically sustainable and politically stable country with a significant potential to continue pursuing its economic growth, Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulić highlighted during the Business Forum within the Western Balkans Summit which takes place in Trieste. „Montenegro has recently become NATO member state, positioning the country high on the list of safe countries. Open economy is one of the core values of the country. Montenegro is a full – fledged member of the WTO and signatory state to the CEFTA and EFTA agreements on free trade. Following the current trade agreements, Montenegro is able to provide free trade with more than 800 million consumers,” Minister Sekulić explained. Speaking of the business environment, Minister Sekulić said that Montenegro has efficient, transparent and competitive tax system with a profit tax rate estimated at only 9%, personal income tax rate also at 9% and 11%. When it comes to attracting foreign investments, Minister Sekulić stressed that a foreign investor can invest in any industry sector and make free transfer of capital, profits and dividends. In that regard, she outlined that the Government of Montenegro is currently implementing fiscal consolidation measures, adding that some of them are related to increasing taxes and none of them to increasing taxes for foreign investors. In her address to the participants of the Forum, Minister Sekulić presented some of the most important incentives which are being implemented by the Government. Therefore, she mentioned Decree on boosting direct investments which is aimed at providing financial investments amounting form EUR 3 000 to EUR 10 000 per a new working place. This Decree is aimed at attracting investments and boosting employment, particularly in less developed municipalities in Montenegro, Minister Sekluić pointed out. The funds are allocated on the basis of a public call for investment projects, Minister Sekulić explained, adding that these funds should be amounting minimum EUR half a million for central region of the country and EUR 250 000 for northern region. A foreign investor can use these incentives after the establishment of a company in Montenegro, she outlined. The Government of Montenegro is also implementing a project related to declaring the business zones, which are entitled to 9 municipalities so far, thus allowing investors to invest under very favourable conditions, Minister Sekulić emphasised. Speaking of the infrastructure, Minister Sekulić said that Montenegro is on its way to become an energy hub of the region, mentioning several projects such as the construction of submarine cable to Italy and the construction of a 400KV transmission line between Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina which is co-financed by the EU through the Berlin Process. All these projects are pointing out that Montenegro is making efforts in building stable and secure infrastructure in the region, Minister Sekulić pointed out. EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn stressed that the Western Balkans Summit will define the progress of the Western Balkan countries within the Berlin Process, particularly when it comes to the Connectivity Agenda. He stressed that the WB countries have implemented almost the whole Agenda during 2017, adding that for the region should be focused on the small and medium sized enterprises in order to boost economic growth. It is important to create an atmosphere for enabling the exchange of experience between the Western Balkan countries and the EU in order to establish good economic cooperation and sharing of know-how, Commissioner Hahn pointed out.