Western Balkan countries-EU - international trade in goods statistics
Data extracted in May 2019.
Planned article update: May 2020.
Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and the Western Balkan countries, 2008-2018
This article provides a picture of the international trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and its Western Balkan partners (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo). It analyses the type of goods exchanged between them and the shares of each EU Member State in those exchanges.
This article is part of an online publication providing recent statistics on international trade in goods, covering information on the EU's main partners, main products traded, specific characteristics of trade as well as background information.
- The EU is the main trading partner for the Western Balkan countries, both in imports and in exports.
- The EU has a continuous trade surplus with the Western Balkan countries which was EUR 9 billion in 2018.
- Manufactured goods are the most traded products with the Western Balkan countries.
- Serbia is the EU's largest export partner among Western Balkan countries, followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.
- Serbia is also the EU's largest import partner among Western Balkan countries, followed by North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.
- In absolute terms, Germany is the largest exporter to and importer from the Western Balkan countries.
- Among the Member States, the Western Balkan countries are the most important export and import partner of Croatia when measured as a share of total extra-EU exports and imports.
Western Balkan countries trade with the EU and other main partners
Figure 1 shows the main trading partners of the Western Balkan countries. The EU is the main partner both in exports (72 %) and imports (58 %), while trade among the Western Balkan countries takes second place. China is an important import partner for the Western Balkan countries but has a very small share in their exports. Russia and Turkey complete the top five trade partners.
Figure 2 shows that the EU has had a continuous trade surplus with the Western Balkan countries. It peaked at EUR 12 billion in 2008 and had a low of EUR 8 billion in 2010 and from 2013 to 2016. In 2018 it reached EUR 9 billion. Between 2008 and 2018 exports to the Western Balkan countries increased by EUR 10 billion while imports from them increased by EUR 13 billion.
Manufactured goods dominate trade with Western Balkan countries
Figures 3 and 4 show the exports to and imports from Western Balkan countries by product group. The red colours show primary goods: Food and drink, raw materials and energy. Blue colours show manufactured goods: chemicals, machinery and vehicles. In 2017 manufactured goods made up 78 % of exports to and 81 % of imports from Western Balkan countries.
In exports of manufactured products, machinery and vehicles (34 %) had the largest share, followed by other manufactured goods (29 %) and chemicals (15 %). In primary products, the shares of food and drink (10 %) and energy (9 %) were almost equal, while raw materials (2 %) had only a small share.
In imports of manufactured products, the top spot for machinery and vehicles (41 %) was even clearer. As in exports, also here manufactured goods (28 %) and chemicals (11 %) followed. In primary products, the shares were fairly close to each other: food and drink (7 %) led, followed by raw materials and energy (both 6 %)
Serbia is the largest Western Balkan trade partner of the EU
Figure 5 shows that Serbia accounts for almost half of the total EU exports to the Western Balkan countries. The growth of its exports between 2008 and 2018 in absolute terms was the largest of the six Western Balkan countries. However, its average annual growth rate (4.3 %) was the third highest, behind that of the North Macedonia (7.7 %) and Kosovo (7.0 %) but in front of Albania (3.8 %), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1.6 %) and Montenegro (0.6 %).
Figure 6 shows that Serbia is also the main import partner for the EU, again with almost half of total imports from Western Balkan countries. Between 2008 and 2018, the average annual growth rate of its imports (9.8 %) was very close to that of Albania (9.9 %) and North Macedonia (9.7 %). Bosnia-Herzegovina (6.4 %) and Kosovo (1.6 %) also grew while EU imports from Montenegro fell from 276 million in 2008 to EUR 189 million in 2018.
Figure 7 shows that the EU had a trade surplus with all six Western Balkan countries. The trade surplus with Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina decreased considerably between 2008 and 2018. The trade surplus of North Macedonia and Albania only decreased slightly while the trade surplus of both Montenegro and Kosovo increased.
Western Balkan countries are important trade partners for Croatia
Table 1 shows the exports to the Western Balkan countries by Member State. There were five Member States whose exports were above EUR 2 billion: Germany (EUR 5.4 billion), Italy (4.4 billion), Slovenia (2.9 billion), Hungary (2.6 billion) and Croatia (2.5 billion). For Germany (1.0 %) and Italy (2.2 %) these exports were only a small percentage of their total exports to countries outside the EU but for Croatia this was more than half of its exports to countries outside the EU. Slovenia (32.7 %), Hungary (13.7 %), Greece and Bulgaria (both 12.0 %) were the only other Member States where the share was above 10 %.
Table 2 shows that the five largest exporters to the Western Balkan countries were also the largest importers from them. Again, for Germany (1.4 %, EUR 5.3 billion) and Italy (2.2 %, EUR 3.8 billion) the shares in total extra-EU trade were small while for Croatia (28.7 %, EUR 1.5 billion)) and Slovenia (17.2 %, EUR 2.0 billion) the shares were more substantial, although not as high as in exports.
Figure 8 shows that only five countries (Sweden, Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta and Estonia)) had a trade deficit with the Western Balkan countries. Only Geece (EUR 1.3 billion) and Hungary (EUR 1.1 billion) had trade surpluses of more than EUR 1 billion.
Source data for tables and graphs
EU data is taken from Eurostat's COMEXT database. COMEXT is the reference database for international trade in goods. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated via the Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process.
Data are collected by the competent national authorities of the Member States and compiled according to a harmonised methodology established by EU regulations before transmission to Eurostat. For extra-EU trade, the statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of customs declarations.
EU data are compiled according to Community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 28 EU Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it.
Methodology According to the EU concepts and definitions, extra-EU trade statistics (trade between EU Member States and non-EU countries) do not record exchanges involving goods in transit, placed in a customs warehouse or given temporary admission (for trade fairs, temporary exhibitions, tests, etc.). This is known as ‘special trade’. The partner is the country of final destination of the goods for exports and the country of origin for imports.
Product classification Information on commodities exported and imported is presented according to the Standard international trade classification (SITC). A full description is available from Eurostat’s classification server RAMON.
Unit of measure Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (109) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in case of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting country. It is called a FOB value (free on board) for exports and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports.
Trade is an important indicator of Europe’s prosperity and place in the world. The block is deeply integrated into global markets both for the products it sources and the exports it sells. The EU trade policy is an important element of the external dimension of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ and is one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.
Because the 28 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively, both in the World Trade Organization, where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trading partners. This common policy enables them to speak with one voice in trade negotiations, maximising their impact in such negotiations. This is even more important in a globalised world in which economies tend to cluster together in regional groups.
The openness of the EU’s trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with. Thanks to the ease of modern transport and communications, it is now easier to produce, buy and sell goods around the world which gives European companies of every size the potential to trade outside Europe.
- International trade in goods (t_ext_go), see:
- International trade in goods - long-term indicators (t_ext_go_lti)
- International trade in goods - short-term indicators (t_ext_go_sti)
- International trade in goods (ext_go), see:
- International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
- International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)
- International trade in goods - short-term indicators (ext_go_sti)
- International trade in goods - detailed data (detail)
- EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS-018995)
- International trade in goods statistics - background
- International trade in goods (ESMS metadata file — ext_go_esms)
- User guide on European statistics on international trade in goods
- This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.