Lorry drivers currently squander approximately 26 million hours – equating to nearly 3,000 years – waiting at the border crossings of the Western Balkans nations, a staggering statistic revealed by Antonela Basani, the World Bank’s Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region. She presented this information to leaders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia at the Berlin Process Summit in Tirana.
According to a new World Bank report discussed during the Berlin Process meetings, reducing the average border waiting time by three hours – the difference between the typical waiting time in the Western Balkans and countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – could contribute up to three percent of the gross national income.
The World Bank suggests that joining the European Union could enhance these benefits by an additional six percent. Moreover, EU neighbouring countries like Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria could see gains of around 0.2% due to increased trade with the Western Balkans.
“The Western Balkans holds the immense potential to tap into the market of 450 million people in the European Union. Global experiences, including those in the Western Balkans, show that access to international markets is vital for business growth and achieving economies of scale,” said Antonela Basani. She further added:
“Economic integration provides a swift path to adopting new technologies, flowing in new ideas and innovations, and transitioning to higher productivity supporting growth in middle-income economies.”
The World Bank is already collaborating with partners to facilitate trade and transport in the region through investments and reforms. They’re also supporting Western Balkans’ economies to align their payment systems with European Union standards and meet criteria for integration into the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).