The Western Balkans: 15 Years of Economic Transition

Tuesday, March 10

While the collapse of communism 25 years ago marked the start of the transition to market economics for all Emerging Europe, the economic transformation of the Western Balkans really got going at the turn of the century. Over the last 15 years, the countries of the Western Balkans have undergone a major economic transformation, and many are unrecognizable compared with where they stood at the turn of the century. However, convergence has stalled, and without a courageous reform push, Western Balkan countries cannot expect to attract the scale of investment flows that is needed to finance rapid sustained growth. They risk staying at income levels less than one-third of those of their richer European neighbors.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI) and the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) co-hosted this high-level conference at the OeNB to review the region’s achievements and examine the challenges that still lie ahead.

The conference brought together senior policymakers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia (including six central bank governors and five ministers); representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the World Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); and academics from the region. As background to the conference, the IMF published analytical papers in its Regional Economic Issues series, and in addition staff of the World Bank, EBRD, JVI, and OeNB gave analytic presentations at the conference.

The final panel, chaired by Poul Thomson, Director of the IMF European Department, consisted of former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister  Božidar Djelić (currently with Lazard Freres), OeNB Governor Ewald Nowotny, Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute and Columbia University, Macedonian Finance Minister Zoran Stavreski, and Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujčić.

The conference program and presentations are available here.


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