Agreement to improve Western Balkans transport connections

Western Balkans rail The European Commission signed high-level agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia to adapt Western Balkans rail network, the roads, ports and inland waterways, to the TEN-T transport network to meet EU’s standards for effectively connecting the towns and cities between the two regions.
The agreement was signed on the margins of the Connectivity Summit in Budva, Montenegro on May 16, 2023 and represents a major step towards greater transport connectivity between the European Union and our Western Balkan partners.

“With the signature of these agreements, and with our proposal for a Western Balkans European Transport Corridor, we are laying the ground to integrate the transport network of the Western Balkans into the EU’s. It will promote the development of sustainable and resource-efficient transport connectivity between the EU and these countries. The importance of closer and seamless transport connections cannot be underestimated,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said.

The Transport Community, which brings together the EU Member States represented by the Commission and the Western Balkan partners, actively supports the execution of projects connecting the six countries with each other, and with the EU.

The integration of the Western Balkan transport networks into the TEN-T will also help prepare EU candidate countries and potential candidates for their future accession to the EU.

“Connectivity Summit focuses on investments in transport infrastructure and reforms of policies that will facilitate transition to more efficient mobility in the Western Balkans in line with the strategic documents of the Transport Community. Actions targeting the main road and rail border crossings on the indicative extension of the TEN-T network in the Western Balkans, including with the neighbouring EU Member States, will address inefficiencies and delays at those points and modernise the operations,” Transport Community Permanent Secretariat Director Matej Zakonjsek said.

The Western Balkans rail network has a total length of almost 6,500 km on both core (more than 2,600 km) and comprehensive (3,895 km) TEN-T networks consisting of the three corridors (Vc, VIII and X) and seven routes.

“An important step for integrating the transport network of the Western Balkans with that of the EU, which should help bring better rail, road and waterborne and multimodal connections for businesses and citizenz across our regions. Promoting smooth border crossings is also key by removing unnecessary checks ands rad tape, and ensuring sufficient infrastructure capacity,” EU Transport Director Mona Bjorklund said.

The summit brought together professionals and political stakeholders from the region and the EU to discuss issues related to sustainable and efficient trade, and transport and logistics as prerequisites for attracting investment and boosting economic growth within the region. It also addressed strengthening relations between the region and EU and was co-organised by the Transport Community Treaty and CEFTA Secretariats.

In 2021, the states of the Western Balkans signed a joint declaration recognising the importance of rail transport as well as the need to improve the rail links at the regional level and the cross-border connections with the EU’s member states.

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