The Regional Cooperation Council presented the 2017 edition of its annual survey of citizens’ and business communities’ opinion on the situation in the Western Balkans region.
“While there is further evidence of economic recovery across a number of the region’s larger economies, unemployment remains the chief concern. Worryingly, the (2017 Balkan) Barometer highlights ever growing anxiety over corruption; in BB 2015, 15% rated corruption as one of the key problems for the region. The number was up to 27% in 2016 and is now at 32%,” said RCC Secretary General Goran Svilanović at the presentation in Brussels and added: “An upturn in economic performance by the region’s economies has brought about an increasingly optimistic outlook for the future that needs to be solidified through decisive government action. While it’s hardly news that the region has much work to do, our hope is that the Barometer’s findings will help set the agenda that will ultimately spur further growth in the region, especially having in mind the implementation of the RCC-prepared Regional Economic Area Multiannual Action Plan which region’s leaders endorsed in Trieste this summer.”
23% of respondents believe EU membership will never happen
Presenting the key findings of attitudes, experiences, aspirations, perceptions and expectations across the Western Balkan economies, Vladimir Gligorov, GfK Expert Consultant and Researcher at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, stressed that business people continue to struggle with what they see as complex taxation and an unfriendly business environment with an unpredictable legal system: “62% of business people in the region perceive very hard or hard to start a private business in their place of living. More than half of them (51%) believe that upgrading roads would have the most positive effect on their business. While 56% of respondents agree that the government takes note of their needs, but only to a limited extent, it is positive to record the decline in the number of respondents who feel ignored by the authorities (down to 30% from 38% in 2015).”
Despite notional support for European integration there continues to be widespread skepticism about the region’s short to medium term accession prospects, with 23% of respondents saying they believe EU membership will never happen.
Balkan Barometer is an annual opinion survey commissioned by the RCC and conducted by GfK, collecting and analyzing data from region’s citizens and businesses across a variety of focus areas such as job creation, trade, investments, corruption etc. Its 3rd edition included 8,000 citizens and 1,600 companies.