A new, Western Balkans Trade and Transport Facilitation Project will reduce both time and cost of trade across the Western Balkans.
The USD 90 million project, phase one of a USD 140 million, multi-phase approach, was approved yesterday by the World Bank Board of Directors.
The project will finance the design, development, and implementation of initiatives to improve transparency and integrity, lower transaction costs, enhance inter-agency coordination, and reduce the time it takes to trade across borders.
– Delays at crossings in the Western Balkans are five times longer than in many EU countries and trucks spend some 26 million hours at crossings in the region each year - that’s nearly 3,000 years – says Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Regional Director for the Western Balkans.
This project will provide a total of USD 140 million to six Western Balkans regional participants, with phase one providing financing for Serbia (USD 40 million), North Macedonia (USD 30 million), and Albania (USD 20 million). It is projected to reduce annual export and import costs by more than 10%.
Although exports from the Western Balkans can enter the European Union (EU) without tariffs, only 10-20% of firms in the region are exporters. Compliance with procedures - including inspections and customs - and time spent at the borders and crossing points dampens efficiency, increases costs, and hinders trade.
– In Albania, for example, 87% of Albanian firms sell entirely to the local market, 10 export to the EU, and only 3% sell to the rest of the Western Balkans. This project aims to increase regional trade by reducing non-tariff measures, time needed to clear goods, and overall costs to trade – the World Bank says in its press release.
The Western Balkans Trade and Transport Facilitation Project will help facilitate the movement of goods across the region by introducing a National Single Window (NSW) system, linking key agencies to reduce import and export times through digitalized customs, improving infrastructure at border crossings, and installing critical technology such as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and Vessel Traffic Management and Information Systems (VTMIS).
– By improving infrastructure, introducing new technologies, and increasing coordination among agencies, this project will boost trade and growth around the region. The project will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30,000 tons, with less idle time for vehicles, the installation of solar panels at customs buildings, and new trees around parking areas – says Van Gelder.
Further environmental benefits from the project include less use of paper through digitalization, increased energy efficiency in new and remodeled buildings, and the introduction of early-warning systems to monitor climate change risks and anticipate trade disruptions on the road network.