In the WB-6, the public sector does not always serve the needs of citizens and companies, because of lack of transparency and persistent inefficiencies. All too often, products from the WB-6 face barriers that prevent them from reaching consumers in the EU-27 markets. Youth inactivity rates in the labour market remain high. The prospect of EU integration has lost credibility in the whole region due to profound doubts about admitting new members in some EU capitals, creating a dangerous vacuum for nationalist projects.
The Italian Government should promote EU best practices and fund digitalisation initiatives in the WB-6 to create a more effective e-governance landscape involving civil society in the process.
We recommend increasing the quotas of grants allocated to youth-led start-ups that prioritise sustainability and diversity goals via the Western Balkans Investment Framework, a joint initiative by the EU, international financial institutions and bilateral donors.
We propose organising a bi-annual venture capital fair that can connect youth-led start-ups from the WB-6 with EU countries’ capital markets.
We encourage the inclusion of high-value industries in the development axis of the Economic and Investment Plan, a European Commission-led investment package supporting the green and digital transition in the region. Going beyond low-cost sectors and focusing on “Made in Balkan” exports will help bringing the region closer to EU citizens’ hearts and minds.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs should promote the “Finnish way to accession” for the WB-6 to all the EU member states. The EU should offer the WB-6 the opportunity to join the EU single market first in a two-step process, with full accession remaining the end goal.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs should make serious efforts to make a portion of the 9-20 billion Euros of the Economic and Investment Plan available to WB-6 youth specifically, as the under-representation of youth in the labour market indicates that positive action is necessary to draw youth into the labour market.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs should hold the EU responsible for the transparent allocation of the funds of the Economic and Investment Plan and similar funds in the future. Its effectiveness and practical applications are not clear to EU-33 citizens, which plays into the hands of skeptics and diminishes the political influence of the EU within the WB-6.