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DURRES, Albania (AP) — Prime ministers of the Western Balkan countries on Monday pledged at an informal meeting in Albania to speed up efforts to create a joint economic zone ahead of their integration into the European Union.

The main topic of the one-day meeting in the western port city of Durres is “regional economic integration,” including discussions about developing a joint vision for aligning with the European Union, the implementation of a regional economic zone and other issues.

Host Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama hailed “a different level of political will and cooperation in the region,” adding “that is not accompanied with the same level of economic cooperation.”

EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, who was present at the meeting, said that “It is important to promote the region as a brand for tourism, agriculture, further improvement in the energy sector where there is unexploited potential.”

Prime ministers of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina did not come, sending senior officials instead.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was forced to cancel his trip “because of poor weather conditions,” according to the government’s spokesman.

Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, pledged to intensify investment in the region.

The bank will hold a summit on the Western Balkans in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May next year.

Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are at different stages in the process of joining the EU.

A similar meeting was held last year at the same place.


Semini contributed from Tirana; Konstantin Testorides from Skopje, Macedonia.


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