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21. October 2022.

Thirty cities and municipalities from the Western Balkans received Regional Business Friendly Certificates

Dubrovnik, October 17, 2022. – Thirty cities and municipalities from the Western Balkans that successfully passed through the Business-Friendly Certification program in the South-Eastern Europe (BFC SEE) received certificates which confirm, as a seal of quality, that they provide services to their citizens and business according to the highest international standards.

Certificates are issued by the Regional Business Friendly Certification Council in the South-East Europe that gathers more than 20 partner institutions from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, while the expansion of this platform has been confirmed at the event. Partner organisation Association for Local Autonomy from Albania and Institute for Development Research RIINVEST from Kosovo*, that will implement the certification of their local governments, have joined the regional network. The goal is that eight local governments from Albania and Kosovo* each, join the BFC SEE by the end of 2023.

Core Days 2022 conference is supported by the German Development Cooperation implemented by GIZ and has gathered the representatives of government institutions, institutions in charge of improvement of business environment, local governments` leaders, businesses and civil sector representatives in order to discuss the improvement of the cooperation and exchange of practices for the implementation of economic reforms at the national and local levels. The event was opened by Mr. Stjepan Mesić former president of Croatia.

– Economic co-operation between economies in the Balkans is key to economic development, but unfortunately, it depends on political decisions and peace not only within this region but also Europe and the world. We now see clearly the power of politics over economy in the war in Ukraine, which although not the subject of this gathering, can have an even deeper negative impact on the stability and economic development of this region and beyond, Mesić said.

Sector manager for GIZ Open Regional Fund for Modernisation of Municipal Services Mr. Peter Wolf emphasized the importance of the Regional network expansion which is evolving in the platform for the exchange of successful reforms with the name Partnership for Competitive Region (CORE).

– Together with our partners, we have achieved another successful year of cooperation in improving business conditions in the region. We welcome new partner organisations from Albania and Kosovo. This year, as a result of joint efforts, our network has grown and now covers all six western Balkan economies, Wolfe said.

NALED Executive Director Violeta Jovanović emphasized the importance of co-operation as tighter connections and a higher level of standardization of services in the region will enable better living and working conditions for 20 million citizens and 1,150,000 businesses in this region.

– The partnership for a competitive region will enable its members to continue exchanging experiences and best practices in reforms such as electronic construction permits, eCadaster, electronic registration of seasonal workers, improvement of inspection supervision, digital fiscalization. The partnership will also allow us to publish the first regional report as early as 2023, which will measure economic and political stability and rank the region’s economies according to quality of life and business conditions, Jovanović said.

Via video message, European MP Franc Bogovič addressed to the participants, who cited that understanding, co-operation and partnership are the key to living together, development of local communities, regions, states as well as in the EU. “This is especially important for the coherent regional development and development of rural areas. These challenges are also sizable in all western Balkan countries, where the villages are increasingly emptying. The latest data and forecasts suggest that from 1989 to 2050, the western Balkans will see the largest emigration and population decline – BiH as much as 29%, Serbia as much as 24%, Croatia as much as 22%, and Albania as much as 18%,” Bogovič stressed. Slavica Grkovska, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Good Governance of North Macedonia, emphasized the importance of the regional cooperation and exchange of experiences needed for fast progress and economic development. She also stressed the importance of digital transformation and digitalization of public services for building transparent and accountable institutions and quality public services that will meet citizens’ needs.

– It is of utmost importance for the central and local power to closely cooperate in order to implement digitalization on each level. All of us here, on both central and local level are here for the citizens and not the other way around. Digitalization is not a political process but the society process and it is not the obligation of one government but for all parts of society –  said Grkovska.

BFC SEE Standard and Recipients of Certificates

More than 100 cities and municipalities, from Croatia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, have passed through the Business-Friendly Certification program in the South-Eastern Europe (BFC SEE) as of 2012. Presently, 44 local self-governments have valid certificate that lasts for three years. The Program is supported by the GIZ Open Regional Fund for Modernisation of Municipal Services (GIZ ORF MMS).

BFC is a unique program for measurement and improvement of business environment and investments at the local level. It provides to cities and municipalities the clear guidelines for a creation of favourable business environment and introduction of international standards of efficiency and transparency of local administration in line with the good governance principles. For business and potential investors, the fact that local government has this certificate means that they can rely on the stable and predictable business environment.

The quality of the business environment of the local governments is measured through the certification process that involves a number of demanding criteria including strategic and institutional framework for economic development, transparency of businesses` costs, information on available human resources, quality of infrastructure and communal services. As BFC standards have been constantly improved, digital transformation, electronic services, environment standards, innovation have been included in the criteria that each municipality has to meet. Fulfilment of criteria are confirmed by the independent verification committee.

At the Core Days 2022 conference, 30 local self-governments have received the certificate:

Croatia – Crkvenica, Ivanec, Jastrebarsko

Montenegro – Danilovgrad, Tivat, Žabljak, Podgorica

Republika Srpska – Doboj, Kotor Varoš, Modriča, Prijedor, Teslic, Trebinje, Zvornik, Laktaši, Gradiška

Federation BiH – Bihać, Gradačac, Jablanica, Posušje, Žepče, Živince, Zenica

Serbia – Novi Sad, Čačak, Leskovac, Ruma, Bor, Stara Pazova, Pećinci

BFC SEE Partners