On the occasion of the fourth Western Balkans Summit that was held in Trieste on 12 July 2017, the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum (WB CIF) and the Chamber of Commerce Venezia Giulia organized a Gala Opening of the Permanent Secretariat of the WB6 CIF and a Panel discussion of renowned business leaders from the region.
The Secretariat with its legal seat in Trieste, Italy was established under the auspices of the Italian presidency of the Berlin Process and with the generous support of the Chamber of Commerce of Venezia Guilia. It will act as a key contact, information and development point for all activities, projects and initiatives within the Berlin Process with a pronounced developmental dimension for the economies of the Region.
The Gala opening of the Secretariat took place on 12 July 2017 at the margins of the Business Forum, in the presence of the highest European officials and officials from the region. The opening ceremony was followed by the Panel discussion on the Recommendations of the regional business community for a regional economic area.
The CIF organized the participation of 20 of its renowned regional member companies at the business forum within the third Western Balkan Summit held on 4 July 2016 in Paris, and thus enabled them useful business networking with leading French companies that are interested in cooperating with the region.
On the sidelines of the Business Forum, the second meeting of the CIF Managing board was held, chaired by the Foreign trade Commerce of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the presence of representatives of the Chamber of Commerce of France, EUROCHAMBRES and the Regional Cooperation Council, where it was concluded to intensify the cooperation between the CIF and European partners and other stakeholders for more efficient implementation of joint development projects.
Meetings of standing and ad hoc CIF working groups are held annually and more often if
necessary (with the possibility of skype conferences).
At meetings of CIF working groups held with the support of DIHK-CEFTA Project Partnership in Belgrade in June 2016 and Sarajevo on 6 September 2016, chambers’ expert members of these working groups discussed the current issues envisaged in plans of the presiding chamber.
Their conclusions were considered and adopted at the CIF MB meeting, which was held in Zagreb on 3 March 2017, and organized by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. The CIF MB supported the proposal of setting up a new working group under the CIF, which would deal with issues of public procurement.
Two years in a row, members of the CIF MB participated in panel discussions on regional cooperation within the so-called “Serbian Davos” - Kopaonik Business Forum, in 2016 and 2017, where recommendations to governments were adopted for measures to improve the competitiveness of regional economies.
At the core of the CIF activities is support to the development of SMEs competitiveness in the region, which accounts for about 98% of the economy in the region.
At the meeting of the CIF MB with the South East European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (SEECEL), held on 25 February 2016 in Zagreb, close cooperation for human resource development and strengthening entrepreneurship in the region was agreed, which will be implemented by the Joint CIF – SEECEL Committee set up at the first meeting of the CIF MB.
European official have a position that the CIF is a successful example of regional cooperation and it has become the most powerful cohesion factor, which directly contributes to the competitiveness and attractiveness of the Western Balkans.
The European Commission has recognized the efforts of the CIF chambers to contribute to facilitating intensive business networking in the region, as well as an active and concerted action with regard to shared economic interests.
In the context of encouraging structured dialogue with the private sector in the process of intensified economic integration of the Western Balkans in the EU, the European Commission announced in early 2017, except for the CEFTA Secretariat and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), additional support to the CIF.
At the constitutive meeting of the CIF Managing Board (CIF MB), consisting of presidents of the chambers of commerce, held on 21 October 2015, the Statute and Rules of Procedure were adopted.
Standing working groups were established as follows: 1) transport and energy infrastructure and utility activities; 2) improvement of business and investment climate, and 3) development of private sector. Each chamber of commerce has its representative in these working groups, which discuss proposals and give recommendations to the CIF MB.
At the constitutive meeting, it was also adopted a conclusion to call on WB6 governments to enable presidents of the chambers to be directly involved in the work of National investment committees.
Following the initiative of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia and Kosovo Chamber of Commerce on direct inclusion of Western Balkan chambers of commerce and their member companies in the economic dimension of the Berlin Process, the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum (CIF) was established on 27 August 2015, on the sidelines of the Vienna Western Balkan Summit, with the support of EUROCHAMBRES, the Austrian Federal Economic
Chamber (WKÖ) and Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK).
The establishment of the CIF is a response of the business community to the political processes in the region, taking place within the Berlin Process and new opportunities for stronger networking of business communities of the region through influence on the removal of the remaining obstacles to the development of regional economic cooperation and improving the business and investment climate in the WB6 markets.
WB6 CIF ACTION PLAN
The CIF Action Plan “WB6 Chambers of Commerce in creating the value chain at the regional level”, consisting of 26 regional development projects delegated by WB6 chambers, was adopted at the CIF constitutive meeting in Vienna and presented on the same day to ministers for economic development of participating states of the WB6.
One third of the Action Plan has been successfully implemented so far.
The first practical results in terms of adopting joint regional projects within the Berlin Process were achieved on the second Western Balkan Summit, held in Vienna on 27 August 2015. The agreed framework for infrastructure investment development of the region in the area of transport and energy should lead to creating some 200 000 new jobs, over the next 15 years.
The Austrian Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting of representatives of Western Balkan chambers of commerce on 16 June 2015 in Vienna, and they reached an agreement on more efficient inter-chamber cooperation at different levels, to enable the inclusion of business associations in implementing on-going and planned infrastructure projects significant for the economic prosperity of the Western Balkans, proposed under the Berlin Process.