The Office of the Secretary General of the Western Balkan Chamber Investment Forum (WB CIF) was opened at the Chamber of Economy of Montenegro on February 21, 2019 in Podgorica.
The Office was officially opened by the Montenegrin Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulić and the President of the CIF Managing Board and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia Marko Čadež, in the presence of representatives of the national chambers of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, the CIF Secretary General Safet Gerxhaliu and representatives of Montenegrin companies.
Minister Sekulić expressed satisfaction with the fact that Podgorica will be the center of the CIF’s activities. She hopes that communication with the economy will result in finding better solutions and improving the competitiveness of our investment environment and the economy in general. According to her, the voice of the business community needs to be heard in important regional initiatives, which will be implemented in the forthcoming period. She is looking forward to future cooperation with the Office of the WB6 CIF Secretary General.
President of the WB6 CIF Managing Board Marko Čadež reminded that this association represents 350,000 companies expecting greater benefits from regional economic cooperation. On behalf of the CIF, he proposed this association to be support in creating architecture of unique regional economic area. According to him, first we should start with harmonizing necessary documentation in trade, veterinary and phytosanitary certificates, customs procedures, which, he believes, is of vital interest since these barriers are costly for our companies. He proposed establishment of the centres within the ministries of economy in cooperation with the business communities, which will only deal with these issues.
Mr. Čadež stated that the WB6 CIF is intended to be a promoter of the Western Balkans as a single investment destination. The CIF created an electronic platform for investment in the whole region, which includes all legal regulations and information needed to find business partners and greenfield projects.
President of the Montenegrin Chamber of Economy Vlastimir Golubović said that by opening the Office of the WB6 CIF Secretary General, Podgorica has become the capital of the economic area of the Western Balkans. He recalled that at the Summit in Vienna in 2015, on the basis of the Berlin process, it was decided to establish the Association of the Western Balkan chambers, whose constituent meeting of the Managing Board took place in October 2015 in Budva.
According to him, since its establishment the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum has been recognized as the most appropriate framework for contributing to the improvement of connectivity in the region, economic prosperity and European path of the Region as a whole. He added that this association is aimed at the development of the competitiveness of the regional economy through the interchamber actions, cooperation and alignment of activities.
President Golubović also said that after the opening of the General Secretariat’s Office in Trieste, we recognized the need to have our own headquarters within the region, due to better availability of a number of funds available to non-EU member states, as well as a stronger involvement of the business community of the region in different CIF activities. The President Golubović said that the project approved by the European Commission, worth EUR 2.5 million will start soon. He also announced that the grant of EUR 50 million will be approved and it would be placed to the region through KfW and this Office with the aim of improving the educational system, which will create labour force in line with the labour market needs.
The WB6 CIF Secretary General Safet Gerxhaliu said that Podgorica is becoming the centre of regional cooperation and partnership with the European Union and donors, as well as the WB6 CIF is seen as a kind of an advocate when it comes to lobbying for better future.
The President of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia Branko Azeski said that the WB6 CIF can contribute to the creation of a common economic area of the Western Balkans and that this process should be completed over the next five years. He said that the CIF should offer specific products to the companies, which would stimulate their operations, joint projects and business internationalization. According to him, arbitration can be one of the common products, since it should be raised at the level of all six countries, which would make the companies opt for this form of resolving commercial disputes. He also believes that the representatives of the WB6 CIF should be part of state delegations and represent the economic interests of the entire region.
President of the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Albania Ines Mucostepa congratulated on the opening of the WB6 CIF Secretary General’s Office and hopes that the good results will be achieved in terms of regional networking of the businessmen.
Ahmet Egrlić, the President of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina urged the chambers to encourage and promote economic cooperation in the region and provide better business conditions. He said that the Western Balkans wants to work on the integration of the business community in order to strengthen its position in the EU.
The opening ceremony of the WB6 CIF Secretary General’s Office and meeting with representatives of the business community were followed by an informal meeting of the WB6 CIF Managing Board.
The project proposal "Support to the WB6 CIF for effective joint economic process", which is to be funded and supported by the multipurpose IPA amounting to EUR 2.5 million, was presented at the meeting. The contract is expected to be signed in the first quarter of 2019. The European Union will thus support this association in taking part in public-private dialogue related to the establishment of REA, promoting the benefits of regional economic integration in the context of the REA to the regional and international business community, creating and providing chamber services aimed at supporting the regional business cooperation, providing regional services in order to stimulate the SMEs competitiveness, capacity building of the CIF and its members in promoting regional economic integration and competitiveness of the local economies.
The WB6 CIF National Coordinator at the CCI Serbia Nenad Đurđević presented the project work packages as well as the members in charge of the work packages.
President of the Macedonian Chamber Branko Azeski asked for the discussion regarding whether each chamber can respond to the tasks envisaged by this project proposal. According to him, the work package entrusted to the Macedonian Chamber should be taken over by the Serbian Chamber, because, as he said, it could respond to this task better due to a specific experience.
The CIF National Coordinator at the CEM Balša Ćulafić informed the participants that the Montenegrin Chamber has not received the final version of the project proposal with a detailed work packages and the budget yet, and asked for it as soon as possible in order to provide some comments and suggestions together with colleagues.
Representatives of all CIF members agreed that meetings should be organized more often in order to discuss project proposals as well as the responsibilities of the WB6 CIF members.
Since there was no time left due to the scheduled lunch with the business community, the participants agreed to organize a separate meeting to discuss this and other projects, which are being implemented as well as those being prepared.
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