EU foreign ministers approve Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans

Meeting on May 7, European Union foreign ministers approved the setting up of a Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans, a new instrument to support EU-related reforms and economic growth in the region, a statement by the Council of the EU said.

The facility is the financial pillar of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans.

It will cover the period from 2024 to 2027 and is expected to provide up to two billion euro in grants and four billion euro in loans to the EU’s six Western Balkan partners in the coming years.

The statement said that the main aim of the facility is “to support Western Balkan partners’ alignment with the EU’s values, laws, rules, standards, policies and practices, with a view to future EU membership, as well as their progressive integration into the EU single market and socio-economic convergence with the EU”.

The facility will support a range of socio-economic and fundamentals reforms, including reforms related to the rule of law and fundamental rights.

To receive support under the facility, each partner in the region must prepare a Reform Agenda, setting out the reforms it plans to undertake in order to achieve the facility’s objectives.

The Western Balkan partners will also need to reflect on how the measures included in the Reform Agendas are expected to contribute to progressive and continuous alignment with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, the statement said.

It said that EU member states will have a key role in approving the beneficiaries’ Reform Agendas and, if necessary, their amendments.

Payments will be made twice a year, provided that the partners meet the qualitative and quantitative steps set out in their respective Reform Agendas.

“Where the preconditions for support are not met or are no longer met, the EU may decide to withhold the release of funds,” the statement said.

General preconditions for EU support under the facility include that partners continue to uphold and respect effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system, free and fair elections, pluralistic media, an independent judiciary and the rule of law, and to guarantee respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

For Serbia and Kosovo, another precondition is that they engage constructively with measurable progress and tangible results in the normalisation of their relations, the Council of the EU said.

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