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Multi-dimensional Review of the Western Balkans

Assessing Opportunities and Constraints

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The Western Balkans region has come a long way over the last two decades in achieving economic and social progress. With a population of 17.6 million, the region today boasts a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of close to EUR 100 billion, an average GDP per capita of about EUR 5 400 and a comprehensive process of integration with the European Union.

This report provides multi-dimensional assessments across the economic, social, finance, governance and environmental pillars of sustainable development for five economies of the region. The region’s location, its deep relationships with Europe and its academic tradition present many opportunities for future development, especially at a time when distances are shrinking further with digitalisation. Making the most of this potential will require collaboration in tackling challenges, which have been further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boosting competences and education, strengthening social cohesion and ensuring a green transformation towards clean energy and the valuation of the region’s natural wealth, emerge as strategic priorities. Beyond practical and financial constraints, future solutions must address considerable institutional and governance challenges that remain across the region.

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Overview: Identifying strategic opportunities for the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans have come a long way over the last two decades. Similar historical development patterns, have endowed the region’s economies with the relatively solid infrastructure, industrial experience and a skills base and academic tradition that can be levers of future development. Developing the region’s potential will require new sources of dynamism and transformation to overcome deep-seated social, institutional and environmental challenges. This chapter takes a holistic view of the region’s development performance across a range of outcomes, spanning the breadth of the Sustainable Development Goals. It then draws on the remaining chapters in this part to outline strategic priorities to build on the Western Balkans’ assets and address the key constraints they face.

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