The Potential of the New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans

The new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans (Growth Plan) proposed by the European Commission (EC) on 8 November 2023 aims to accelerate economic growth and the enlargement process of the six Western Balkan (WB) countries. It openly recognises that neither the level nor the speed of convergence between the WB and the European Union (EU) has been satisfactory. The Growth Plan rests on four pillars: enhancing economic integration with the EU’s single market, boosting integration within the WB region, accelerating fundamental reforms, and increasing financial assistance to the region.

The Growth Plan demonstrates a new awareness on the part of the EC that the policies implemented so far have not been successful and that additional instruments need to be employed to speed up economic development and the integration process of the WB to the EU. The focus is explicitly on accelerating the economic growth of the WB countries as the key ingredient for achieving their faster convergence with the EU, which is most welcome. However, the proposed means to achieve this goal are likely insufficient. This policy insight explores the limitations of the Growth Plan and offers some recommendations on how to enhance its effectiveness.

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