Today at the Digital Assembly in Sofia, Bulgaria, the European Commission is launching the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans. This aims to support the transition of the region into a digital economy and bring the benefits of the digital transformation, such as faster economic growth, more jobs, and better services.
The Commission together with Ministers from six Western Balkan partners - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia – commit to investing in broadband connectivity, increasing cybersecurity and strengthening the digital economy and society, as well as to boosting research and innovation.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said that the aim of the event was to ensure that the citizens of the Western Balkan region can fully reap the benefits of the fast-paced and inevitable digital transformation.
– The commitment to the Digital Agenda will ensure that citizens have the skills to match the demands of the new economy and will help modernize public administrations, strengthen cybersecurity, increase connectivity, and improve the business climate – Gabriel pointed out.
The press release by the EC says that, under the Western Balkan Investment Framework (WBIF), EUR 30 million in EU grants will be made available to deploy broadband infrastructure in the region to mobilize strategic investments and foster socio-economic growth.
A technical assistance package has already been approved for Albania under the WBIF as one of the first investment packages.
Concerning cybersecurity, the EU and the Western Balkan region have a common objective to improve online security and trust.
The Digital Agenda will support the deployment of eGovernment, eProcurement, and eHealth tools and help increase digital skills among citizens.
This will be done by supporting the involvement and representation of the Western Balkans in EU initiatives and events. This includes the Startup Europe Summit 2018 in Sofia, enabling regional startups to connect and network with major European hubs, and opening the EU Code Week for all Western Balkan partners, bringing coding skills and digital literacy to the region.
The Digital Agenda will help set up national research facilities and develop state-of-art e-infrastructures in the Western Balkans and will integrate them in an emerging digital European Research Area.
– This effort will bring world-class training for a new generation of researchers and engineers and will promote interdisciplinary collaboration across Europe – the European Commission says.
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