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Free trade agreements in Western Balkans: CEFTA's achievements and problems

by Michele Tempera

Abstract

The liberalization of the Balkan economies was seen by the EU, the USA and the major international financial institutions as necessary to attract and steer, politically and financially, the ex-Yugoslav nations on the way to western model of society. The Central Eastern Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in its most recent shape was established in 2007 and since then have made achivements but also raised problems.
The commercial links established in the last four years along the region, although still weak, have brought the countries nearer on cultural and human level. The bonds based on economic exchanges in the area have definitely eased the reciprocal understanding and collaboration amid the states and territories composing the historically troubled Balkans.
This is above all true, and significant, given the recent civil wars that erupted during the nineties. With the new millennium, the progressive development of trade volume enhanced by the CEFTA from 2007 on, considerably diminished the probability of another conflict of any kind in the Balkans and gave the opportunity to the governments to look forward to the EU membership.
Since then the Balkan states are focusing their efforts on economic and financial competition with the European Union horizon in front of them, rather than confront each other on the political, strategic and military grounds.
Moreover, the more they will be interconnected by trans-boundary economic activities, the more difficult it will be for another violent crisis in the area to arise. The second achievement reached thanks to the CEFTA in the last years, is represented by the increased swap of information, ideas, cultural issues and productive methods. The exchange of experiences and thoughts has always been an essential feature of humankind which has brought many benefits with it.
The Central European Free Trade Agreement simplifies and encourage this process in the Balkans, with many positive repercussions on each state concerned as well as for the whole continent. The circulation of certain goods and services is also contributing to the progress of the poorest and most troubled area of the continent.
The deepening of trade connections and the augmented commercial exchange within the CEFTA and the Balkan region, are going to continue in the next decade. At same time, similar trend are expected for what regards the CEFTA-EU economic and financial relations. This foreshadows several problems ranging from financial stability to environment, from labour market to sovereignty.

Original title: Free trade agreements in Western Balkans: CEFTA's achievements and problems

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