This week the World Economic Forum headquarters played host to heads of state and government as well as other senior politicians from across Europe to discuss the future of the Western Balkans.

The region is highly strategic, yet many of its economies have struggled to raise competitiveness levels due to regional political instability, historically weak institutions, infrastructure and more recently a chronic brain drain which is starving its economies of badly-needed talent.

The Strategic Dialogue on the Western Balkans, a process that began in Davos in January 2018, was convened with precisely the goal of assisting the partners of the Western Balkans raise economic growth and living standards in mind. Following yesterday’s meeting, which is the third in this process, all partners of the Western Balkans agreed to the following communique:

Forum Communiqué on the Western Balkans

Geneva, 1-2 October 2018

The World Economic Forum convened leaders from four Western Balkans partners, Heads of Government and Ministers of EU member states and neighbouring countries to continue the dialogue on the future of the Western Balkan region at their headquarters in Cologny, Geneva on 1-2 October 2018.

The meeting was part of an ongoing, structured dialogue to discuss how the region can work together to advance economic development and prepare for the future, which will be shaped by the developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Leaders of the region aim to collaborate to:

- Strengthen the ongoing dialogue and deepening the cooperation of the Western Balkan states especially with respect to inclusive growth, skills and talent development, trade, infrastructure, advancing the leadership in the 4th industrial revolution, fostering public private cooperation and empowering the next generation

- Contribute to a new narrative for the region, which provides a positive and forward looking vision for citizens, and especially youth of the region

- Establishing an Affiliate Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: as part of the Forum’s network of Centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this centre will help prepare the region for the fundamental economic and societal shifts presaged by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence

- Organise a Regional South Eastern European Summit in 2019 with all relevant leaders from the region and Europe

- Setting up a Western Balkans Competitiveness Council to improve the region’s fundamental drivers of productivity, including better infrastructure, well-functioning markets, efficient institutions and healthy ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship

- Formalising a cooperation agreement with the World Economic Forum’s Global Centre for Cybersecurity

- Opening ten new Global Shaper hubs across the region thereby ensuring a platform for collaboration for the next generation of leaders

Participants agreed to continue the dialogue on the Western Balkans with the objective to bring solutions to the outstanding challenges the region still faces, and will meet again during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos, Switzerland.