Enlargement countries - international trade in goods statistics

Data extracted in February 2019.

Planned article update: April 2020.


More than four fifths of all goods exported from the enlargement countries in 2018 originated from Turkey.

The seven enlargement countries recorded a combined trade deficit of EUR 63.7 billion in 2018.

International trade in goods with the EU-28, 2018
(% share of total exports and imports)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intercc)

This article is part of an online publication and provides information on a range of international trade statistics for the European Union (EU) enlargement countries, in other words the candidate countries and potential candidates. Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey currently have candidate status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo [1] are potential candidates.

The article gives an overview of international trade developments for goods in these seven countries, covering imports and exports, as well as the trade balance. It also presents an analysis of international trade by selected product groups (based on the standard international trade classification (SITC)) and by selected partners (including an analysis of their trade positions with the EU-28).

Full article

Value of exports and imports

The total value of the goods exported from the EU-28 to the rest of the world in 2017 was 44 % higher than its level in 2008. There was an even faster development to international trade flows for most of the enlargement countries over a similar period, 2008-2018 (see Table 1), as some countries made reforms to develop market-based economic systems. The value of exports from Serbia more than doubled, while exports of goods from Albania were more than three times as high in 2018 as 10 years earlier. By contrast, the value of exports from Montenegro fell slightly (down 4 %) during this period.

Table 1: International trade in goods, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(million EUR)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intertrd) and (ext_lt_intercc)

More than four fifths of all goods exported from the enlargement countries originated in Turkey

In 2018, exports of goods from Turkey were valued at EUR 142 billion. As such, Turkey accounted for more than four fifths (82.6 %) of the total value of exports from the seven enlargement countries in 2018 (2017 data for North Macedonia). Serbia had the second highest level of exports among the enlargement countries (9.1 % of the total), while the third and fourth highest shares were recorded in Bosnia and Herzegovina (3.5 %) and North Macedonia (2.9 %; 2017 data).

The total value of EU-28 imports of goods rose at a relatively slow pace when compared with the pace of growth for exports. There was an overall increase of 17 % in the value of EU-28 imports between 2008 and 2017 in current price terms. All of the enlargement countries except for Montenegro recorded a faster expansion for the value of goods imported between 2008 and 2018, with imports increasing by 30 % or more in Serbia, Albania, Turkey, North Macedonia (2008-2017) and Kosovo.

None of the enlargement countries recorded a trade surplus for goods

In 2018, none of the enlargement countries registered a trade surplus for goods. Together these seven countries recorded a combined trade deficit of EUR 63.7 billion (2017 data for North Macedonia). In 2018, the size of the Turkish trade deficit was EUR 46.0 billion, marginally narrower than it had been in 2008 (EUR 46.9 billion). Like Turkey, North Macedonia (2008-2017), Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina also recorded a narrowing of their trade deficits between 2008 and 2018, as did Serbia where the deficit was 48 % lower (down EUR 4.0 billion) in 2018 compared with 2008. In Montenegro the trade deficit was almost the same in 2018 as it had been in 2008 (EUR 40 million larger), while in Kosovo the deficit increased by EUR 1.2 billion, an expansion of 71 %.

North Macedonia and Serbia were particularly open to international trade

One indicator that may be used to analyse the relative importance of international trade in goods is the value of exports and/or imports expressed relative to gross domestic product (GDP) — see Table 2. Note that the export and import values used in this calculation are based on national accounts data, rather than statistics for the international trade of goods, and these may differ for methodological reasons.

Table 2: International trade in goods, relative to GDP, 2007-2017
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp)

EU-28 exports of goods in 2017 corresponded to 32.6 % of GDP, while imports were equivalent to 30.9 % of GDP; note that these data include trade between EU Member States. Using this measure, most of the enlargement countries were seen to be more open to imports. This was particularly the case in relation to the relative weight of imports of goods entering some of the smaller economies. Indeed, the value of imports of goods into the enlargement countries (for which data are available) ranged from 31.3 % of GDP in Albania up to 58.6 % of GDP in North Macedonia in 2017.

The contribution of exports of goods to GDP was somewhat above the EU-28 average in Serbia and North Macedonia in 2017, but considerably lower in Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.

Structure of trade analysed by broad groups of goods

Machinery and vehicles accounted for the highest proportion of goods exported from the EU-28 in 2017, with a 42.2 % share of the total. This was considerably higher than the shares recorded for other manufactured goods (22.6 %) and chemicals (17.7 %), while each of the remaining goods categories shown in Table 3 accounted for less than 10 % of total EU-28 exports.

Table 3: Exports by broad group of goods, 2018
(% of total exports)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intertrd) and (ext_lt_intercc)

Other manufactured goods were the largest category of goods exported by nearly all of the enlargement countries

Other manufactured goods (which cover SITC Sections 6 and 8) accounted for the highest share of total exports in nearly all of the enlargement countries in 2018; the one exception, based on 2017 data, was North Macedonia. These goods accounted for approximately two thirds of all the goods exported from Albania, and half of the all the goods exported from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a share that was more than two fifths in Turkey and Kosovo and closer to one third in the remaining enlargement countries. The share of other manufactured goods in total exports was consistently higher among the enlargement countries than their corresponding share of EU-28 exports. In North Macedonia, the share of machinery and vehicles (29.5 %) in total exports was marginally higher than that of other manufactured goods (29.0 %).

North Macedonia was the only enlargement country to report that chemicals accounted for in excess of 10 % of its total exports of goods, their share in fact reaching 24.0 % in 2017 (and therefore above the corresponding share recorded in the EU-28; 17.7 % in 2017). Montenegro recorded a relatively high share (20.5 %) of its total exports in 2018 from mineral fuels, lubricants and related goods, close to four times the equivalent share in the EU-28 (5.3 %) and was one of only two enlargement countries — the other being Albania (13.3 %) — to record a double-digit share. Bosnia and Herzegovina reported the lowest share of total exports from food, drinks and tobacco among the enlargement countries in 2018, but its 5.9 % share was nevertheless only slightly below the EU-28 average (6.5 %; 2017 data); note the EU-28 figure excludes intra-EU trade, which may be relatively important, especially for perishables. For Kosovo (23.2 %) and Montenegro (20.5 %), the share of exports coming from raw materials was considerably higher in 2018 than in the other enlargement countries and also at least seven times as high as the equivalent share in the EU-28 (2.6 %; 2017 data).

Machinery and vehicles, other manufactured goods as well as mineral fuels accounted for a high share of EU imports, while there was a higher propensity to import other manufactured goods in most of the enlargement countries

Machinery and vehicles (32.0 %), other manufactured goods (25.7 %) and mineral fuels (18.0 %) accounted for the highest shares of goods imported into the EU-28 in 2017; the next most common group of goods was chemicals (10.6 %). As for exports, the category of other manufactured goods generally accounted for the highest share of total imports among the enlargement countries (see Table 4), these products generally accounting for around three tenths to two fifths of total imports in 2018. There were two exceptions: in Turkey the share of other manufactured goods was relatively low (21.1 %), while the share of imports of machinery and vehicles (26.8 %) was higher; other manufactured goods accounted for a particularly high share of total imports in North Macedonia, at 44.2 % (2017 data).

Table 4: Imports by broad group of goods, 2018
(% of total imports)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intertrd) and (ext_lt_intercc)

Trade between the enlargement countries and the EU-28

Due to its close geographic proximity, it is not surprising to find that the EU-28 is one of the main trading partners of the enlargement countries. Figure 1 shows the relative importance of the EU-28 as a trading partner to the enlargement countries in 2018, with approximately four fifths of all goods exported from North Macedonia (2017 data) and three quarters of all exports leaving Albania destined for the EU-28, with Bosnia and Herzegovina recording a slightly smaller share (72.9 %). Two thirds of the goods exported from Serbia were destined for the EU-28, as were half of all goods exported from Turkey and nearly half from Montenegro. Kosovo saw exports to the EU-28 account for three tenths of its total value of exported goods.

Figure 1: International trade in goods with the EU-28, 2018
(% share of total exports and imports)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intercc)

In 2018, around three fifths of all imported goods that arrived in North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia originated from the EU-28. These four countries had the highest propensity for importing goods from the EU-28, while nearer to half of all imports of goods into Montenegro originated in the EU-28, as did around two fifths in Kosovo and Turkey.

Table 5 provides more detailed information on the international trade flows of goods between the EU-28 and the enlargement countries in 2008, 2013 and 2018. It confirms that Turkey had the only trade surplus for goods with the EU-28, at EUR 3.0 billion in 2018; Turkey’s surplus for the latest period available was a reversal of the situation observed in 2008 and in 2013. North Macedonia (2008-2017), Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia recorded a narrower trade deficit with the EU-28 in 2018 than in 2008, while in Montenegro and Kosovo the deficit for trade in goods with the EU-28 widened over the same period.

Table 5: Trade in goods with the EU-28, 2008, 2013 and 2018
(million EUR)
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intercc)

An alternative measure for analysing the development of trading patterns between the EU-28 and the enlargement countries is shown in Figure 2. The cover ratio is calculated by dividing the value of exports from the enlargement countries and destined for the EU-28 by the value of imports in the enlargement countries that originated from the EU-28; a ratio of 100 % is recorded when exports and imports are balanced (in other words, they have identical values). In 2018, the cover ratio for trade in goods between the enlargement countries and the EU-28 was below 100 % in all cases except one, underlining that most of these countries ran a trade deficit with the EU-28. Turkey was the exception, as its trade surplus was reflected in a cover ratio that was just over 100 %. Kosovo and Montenegro recorded the lowest cover ratios among the enlargement countries for trade in goods with the EU-28 in 2018, at 7.6 % and 14.6 % respectively; in other words, the value of goods imported into Kosovo and originating in the EU-28 was approximately 13 times as high as the value of exports leaving Kosovo and destined for the EU-28. Apart from Turkey, the next highest cover ratios among the enlargement countries for trade in goods with the EU-28 in 2018 were recorded in North Macedonia (2017 data) and Serbia, at 94.6 % and 93.5 %, while ratios of 74.5 % and 60.5 % were recorded in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania.

Figure 2: Cover ratio for trade in goods with the EU-28, 2008 and 2018
Source: Eurostat (ext_lt_intercc)

The cover ratio for trade in goods between Montenegro and the EU-28 decreased from 22.2 % in 2008 to 14.6 % in 2018, reflecting the widening of the trade deficit as exports to the EU-28 fell and imports increased. A smaller fall in the cover ratio was observed in Kosovo. By contrast, the cover ratio for the other enlargement countries rose over the period 2008-2018 (2008-2017 for North Macedonia), most notably in Albania and Serbia.

Data sources

International trade statistics track the value and quantity of goods traded between countries for imports, exports and the trade balance. All statistics presented in this article as monetary values are based on current price series. Traditionally, customs records were the main source of statistical data on international trade. Following the launching of the Single Market on 1 January 1993, customs formalities between EU Member States were removed, and so a new data collection system, Intrastat, was set up for intra-EU trade. In the Intrastat system, intra-EU trade data are collected directly from trade operators, which send a monthly declaration to the relevant national statistical authorities. The data presented in this article for the EU-28 and the enlargement countries come from the Comext database Eurostat’s international trade database.

Eurostat collects statistical information on international trade developments with respect to the enlargement countries; these data are used by the European Commission to prepare annual strategy documents detailing policy developments for EU enlargement countries as well as reports on political and economic developments in enlargement countries.

In general, data concerning subjects other than international trade in goods, national accounts and population, are collected for a wide range of indicators each year through a questionnaire that is sent by Eurostat to partner countries which have either the status of being candidate countries or potential candidates. A network of contacts in each country has been established for updating these questionnaires, generally within the national statistical offices, but potentially including representatives of other data-producing organisations (for example, central banks or government ministries). The statistics collected in this way are made available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available.


The EU has a common international trade policy, often referred to as the common commercial policy. In other words, the EU acts as a single entity on trade issues, including issues related to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In these cases, the European Commission negotiates trade agreements and represents Europe’s interests on behalf of the EU Member States.

The economic impact of globalisation has had a considerable effect on international trade, as well as financial flows. The EU seeks to promote the development of free-trade as an instrument for stimulating economic growth and enhancing competitiveness. International trade statistics are of prime importance for both public sector (decision makers nationally, within the EU and internationally) and private users (in particular, businesses who wish to analyse export market opportunities), as they provide valuable information on developments regarding the exchange of goods between specific geographical areas.

While basic principles and institutional frameworks for producing statistics are already in place, the enlargement countries are expected to increase progressively the volume and quality of their data and to transmit these data to Eurostat in the context of the EU enlargement process. EU standards in the field of statistics require the existence of a statistical infrastructure based on principles such as professional independence, impartiality, relevance, confidentiality of individual data and easy access to official statistics; they cover methodology, classifications and standards for production.

Eurostat has the responsibility to ensure that statistical production of the enlargement countries complies with the EU acquis in the field of statistics. To do so, Eurostat supports the national statistical offices and other producers of official statistics through a range of initiatives, such as pilot surveys, training courses, traineeships, study visits, workshops and seminars, and participation in meetings within the European Statistical System (ESS). The ultimate goal is the provision of harmonised, high-quality data that conforms to European and international standards.

Additional information on statistical cooperation with the enlargement countries is provided here.


  1. 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.
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