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Intervention of H.E. Vincenzo Del Monaco at the April 2022 Balkans Leadership Conference

I am delighted to contribute to this dialogue and I find it meaningful that the OSCE is associated with this event, with a regional width. It clearly speaks for the role of the OSCE, as we all know that this region needs to continue counting on partners that come with a strong and credible democratic agenda.

I full recognize the title of this panel, as economic development is indeed “a sustainable precondition for reconciliation”, the other one being Rule of Law. On top of all the “preconditions” I would position political will and the presence here today of distinguished leaders is a valuable resource from which to draw inputs on how to foster regional cooperation and discuss security.

Now, building security based on sustainable economic development is part of the functional approach that successfully brought together six countries in Europe in the Fifties. They testified to a concrete will of sharing sovereignty, which is much more than renouncing to national competencies.

The idea of regional economic cooperation is fundamentally a two-way commitment.

Firstly, a responsibility on political leaders to reinstating and enhancing this vision of a more integrated economic area, and translating it into programmatic activities: from the fountain pen of top leaders to the files of the customs services. From high politics to regulatory frameworks and mutual recognition of legal provisions. It is a step and at the same time a journey consistent with the fulfilment of the strategic objectives of countries of this region.

And I am blessed to be serving here in Albania, which so much contributes to the development and to the security of this region, as to the OSCE.

Secondly, a more bottom-up approach that places importance on civil society, that zooms on universities, on individuals to embrace the same vision of openness and contribute to creating what we call an “enabling environment” for regional prosperity. This entails an effort of creativity. For instance, it has to do with curricula of universities and the higher education networks. It has to do with trust. Trust of young people in the potential of this region, in their institutions, and in the fact that their voice is heard.

Let’s be honest. Because of this horrible war in the heart of Europe, the overall international context does not seem to promise much good news for the months to come. Isn’t this a stronger call on leaders to strengthen cooperation at all levels, to try to compensate for the difficulties faced by the economic realm? I am thinking of challenges that bring together a number of countries, not only in South-East Europe, and that put to test the resilience of people: spiking prices, drop in the purchasing power of people, impact on energy supplies, slowing of foreign and national investments.

If we broaden the zoom, which the OSCE does actually very well, we understand that stopping the corrosion of globalization was already difficult, and the war in Ukraine might make it even harder. A very interesting analyses recently published by Foreign Affairs on the future of globalization points out that leaders and policy makers can start shaping a common market among democracies that is as broad and deep as possible. This is a debate for political leaders, for you. I will only say that I strongly believe in the result stemming from opening up borders, connecting people, letting goods, services and workers move freely from one country to another in this region. I see the potential of this area with a same level playing field for economic actors that fosters healthy competition and minimizes the many downsides of closed border economies. Yes, it is not a law hanging fruit, but it is within reach.

And let me tell you that in this spirit today’s exercise promoted by the Podgorica Club and the International Summit Council for Peace – Balkans is more relevant and timely than ever.

Now, a question you might ask is why is the OSCE present here, in this Conference?

Because economic development is one of the components of our unique and inclusive understanding of security built on cooperation and rule of law. Our work here in the field is fully resonant to the Polish Chair’s priorities in the economic and environmental dimension, namely the recovery and modernization of economies, with a focus on how to build more resilient space ready for future challenges.

As our economies continue to struggle with the aftermath of the pandemic, which requires co-ordinated and targeted actions to mitigate the economic and social hindrances, we are in the midst of a political pandemic triggered by the war at the heart of Europe.

Also achieving climate neutrality and reduction of their environmental footprint remains a great challenge for all OSCE countries, with direct implications for our sustainable development, our security.

I would briefly highlight concrete examples of what we do here in the field of economic cooperation: we support Albania to fight against corruption, to develop transparent public procurement mechanisms, to promote economic development while upholding environmental security. And in the course of our work, we work both at national and local level, we try to inject a regional dimension as part of our contribution to security.

I very much prioritise our “whole-of-society” approach in fostering economic cooperation and security. Under the guidance of the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities for the entire OSCE area, Amb. Igli Hasani, on 28 February we kick-started the project called Young Developers and Entrepreneurs to Advance Start-ups (YDEAS) here in Tirana. A major initiative conducted in close partnership with the Mayor, Erjon Veliaj.

The event benefited from high participation, being attended by more than 40 start-ups initiated by youth, by more than 100 youth participants, more than 10 local administration decision makers from the whole region. With this event, we paired the innovation and energetic young entrepreneurs with local decision-makers, as our very own contribution to reducing socio-economic disparities as root causes of instability and conflict.

It is precisely because of our comprehensive approach to security that we supported this project on youth entrepreneurship in the digital and social economy. As part of the social economy diverse domain, social entrepreneurship offers an opportunity to re-envision a society based on sustainable environmental development, social capital, and inclusion. This society is more inclusive, creative, and sustainable than ever before and its innovative solutions to the many conundrums of our era are conducive to a better quality of life and wellbeing of individuals, communities and places.

Let me conclude by saying that this year we celebrate the 25th of OSCE Presence in this very hospitable country. Since 1997, the Presence has continued to evolve in step with Albania and the Region. So much has changed since then, but what has not and will not change is our dedication and commitment to keep being a key partner of Albania on its reform path.

Thank you for your attention.

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