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Western Balkan parliaments as promoters of investments and competitiveness

March 3rd -4th 2014, Belgrade, Serbia

Nearly 100 MPs and parliamentary staff fromeight Western Balkan parliaments and the Scottish parliament along with representatives from the business sector, agencies for promotion of investments, chambers of commerce and employers’ associations convened at a regional conference in Belgrade, Republic of Serbia on March 3rd and 4th. The goal of the conference was to discuss the “Role of the Parliaments in promoting investments and competition in the Western Balkans

The conference was opened by  Mrs. Vesna Kovac, deputy president of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia by saying: 

“The  topics we will be discussing at the conference are particularly important for all the countries of the region. Foreign investments are a source of industrial expansion, modernization, production growth, exports and income. This conferencewill also deal with a very important topic and that’s state aid. How much does state aid affect the competitiveness policies? In order for state aid to be effective it also has to be well-managed. “Mrs.Kovac stressed that:

“Strengthening the role of the parliaments in our region means strengthening the role of the parliamentary committees, which are very important in creating economic policies. The role of the committees are not only to accept the suggested lawsbut also to amend them qualitatively.”

During the two day conference the panelists and participants exchanged views and arguments on  “Promoting investments and competitiveness through the work of Parliament”,“Introducing  policies for attractingforeign direct investments and strengthening competition” and“State Aid policies and subsidies for investors in the Western Balkan region in light of EU accession ”.

A number of questions were raised by MPs and participants. RadojkoObradovic, MP from the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia raised a number of questions:

 “The question we deal with today, among others, is do we subsidize investors and if yes, which ones? Is the policy of state aid and subsidies for investors sustainable? Is it something that is applicable only to this region or also outside of it? Do our policies and atitudes towards state aid change depending on the economic situation?Finally, do the changes affect our overall behaviour and relationships?”

Members of the business community, chambers of commerce, agencies for attracting investments and empoyer associations from the region also provided their views as panelists and as participants at the conference.

Aleksandar Damjanovic MP from Montenegro stated that “In creating a good business environment, the parliament has a double role.  It has a direct role in creating special laws that would improve the investment climate, and indirect, by following up on laws drafted by the government from the fiscal and investment insurance sphere.“

One of the main conclusions of the conference was that the parliaments should further develop their oversight capacities through sharing and adopting best practices on oversight of state aid competition and FDI policies and called for further development of an oversight culture of regular annual oversight hearings. For more conclusions and recommendations from the conference click here.

This is the first conference that the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) organized in 2014 as part of its work with the Network of Parliamentary Committees for Economy, Finance and European Integration of Western Balkans. The next conference will cover the topic of oversight of regional energy policies and energy investments and it will take place in autumn 2014 in Montenegro.