Foreign minister Ekaterina Zaharieva attended a conference on wages in the Western Balkans and broke the news that another Western Balkans summit will be held in Croatia in 2020. Krassen Nikolov has the story.
Krassen Nikolov is a journalist specialised in judiciary affairs. He works for Mediapool and is a regular contributor for BulgarianPresidency.eu for the six months of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Bulgaria’s commitment to the accession of the countries of the Western Balkans to the EU will not end with its EU Presidency, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said on the eve of the 17 May summit in Sofia.
She spoke at a forum on income the countries of the Western Balkans, organized by one of the two largest Bulgarian trade unions, the Confederation of Independent Syndicates in Bulgaria (CISB). The conference was attended by trade unions from all the countries of the Western Balkans.
Zaharieva took the commitment that the support of the Bulgarian government to the Western Balkans countries would be long-term. She also broke the news that every two years there would be a forum similar to the 17 May Western Balkans summit.
According to the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, the focus on the Western Balkans will be the biggest achievement of the Bulgarian presidency. She announced that Croatia had committed to organize a high-level forum for the Western Balkans during its presidency (1.1.2020-30.6.2020).
Zaharieva linked the European perspective of the region with goal of increasing incomes.
“The reforms required by the accession process are not just for membership, and just for Brussels, they have to be done primarily because of citizens, as reforms lead to higher incomes”, Zaharieva said.
She added that if the incomes in Bulgaria continue to grow at the rate of 2017, they would reach the European average in ten years’ time. Last year the average salary in Bulgaria reached €590 before tax, which is a growth of 11.5% per year. The net average income is about €450, but this is mainly due to the higher salaries in Sofia. Outside the capital, average wages are much lower.
Zaharieva said incomes in the Balkans still lagged behind those in Western and Central Europe, as “we are democratic states for only 27 years”.
CISB leader Plamen Dimitrov commented that there are no significant differences in income in the Balkan countries. The average net income after taxes in Serbia is €456, in Montenegro – €512, in Bosnia – €440, in Macedonia – €387, in Kosovo – €457, in Albania – about €300. EU members Croatia and Slovenia have much higher incomes.
The average salary in the Balkans lags between 5 and 10 times the old member states and about twice the new member states in Central Europe.