DIGITAL SME puts forward A New Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans

  • The EU’s partnership with the Western Balkans must include investments in key areas of digital innovation

  • DIGITAL SME puts forward a set of policy recommendations for the EU institutions, in collaboration with partner organisations and Western Balkan stakeholders

  • These recommendations will increase resilience and foster an ever-closer relationship between the EU and the Western Balkans

At the Digital Assembly 2018 in Bulgaria, the EU launched the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans. Since then, the increasing influence of actors such as China and the United States in the Western Balkans has been significant, causing concerns in the EU about potential strategic dependencies. In response, the EU hopes to demonstrate that it can be a reliable partner in the era of the digital revolution.

Amidst a volatile geopolitical environment and the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine it is important that the EU reinforces its engagement in digital technologies with Western Balkan partners. This new shift requires the development of synergies and projects in consultation and close cooperation between all parties. A new Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans could promote the EU’s approach to digital technologies by responding to its partners’ needs.

DIGITAL SME offers five policy recommendations for a New Digital Agenda including the establishment of Digital Attachés in the EU’s Delegations, the creation of a Cybersecurity Skills Academy in the region, and an investment package under the EU Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, among others.

On the 11th of October 2023, DIGITAL SME and EEIG EuRelations co-organised an event in Brussels to present the Position Paper. In their opening statements Sebastiano Toffalletti, Secretary General of DIGITAL SME and Davide Giribaldi, president of EEIG EuRelations highlighted the geopolitical importance of new technologies and the strategic need to work with partners in the region in areas such as cybersecurity and digital skills.

Several stakeholders from Western Balkan countries also shared their perspectives on the digitalization process during a panel discussion. Suela Janina, Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the European Union, gave the perspective in how digitalization efforts are crucial to enlargement of the EU in Western Balkans. Daniele Sabato, representative of the Adriatic-Ionian Euroregion pointed to how digitalisation can have social impact and how in turn the human-centric approach to technology is important. Dragisa Damjanovic of Ministry of Education of the Republic of Montenegro shared his practical take on the digitalisation of government public services.

The panel was followed by a keynote presentation from Guido Salvaneschi, Associate Professor at the University of St. Gallen, on the latest developments in key technologies such as AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity. The event was concluded with fireside chat between Antonio Grasso, Public Affairs Director at the DIGITAL SME and Adrienn Kiraly, Senior Adviser at DG NEAR. The discussion covered current investments and programmes of the European Commission aiming to improve digital cooperation in Western Balkans.

The event took place several days after the Sixth Western Balkans Digital Summit in Sarajevo and during the European Week of Regions and Cities.

All in all, DIGITAL SME is committed to continue taking action in this field and support an increased cooperation in digital technologies and innovation between the EU and the Western Balkans. You can read the full DIGITAL SME Position Paper here. You can view the presentations from the event here.

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