Western Balkans-EU - international trade in goods statistics
Data extracted in March 2022.
Planned article update: April 2023.
Imports, exports and trade balance between the EU and the Western Balkans, 2011-2021
This article provides a picture of the international trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). 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 Western Balkans trade with the EU and other main partners
Figure 1 shows the main trading partners of the Western Balkans. Among non Western Balkan partners, the EU is the main partner both in exports (81.0 %) and imports (57.9 %). China is a significant import partner (11.6 %) for the Western Balkans, but has a small share in their exports (3.2 %). Trade among Western Balkan countries accounted for 9 % of total (intra + extra) Western Balkan imports and 15 % of their exports.
Figure 2 shows that the EU has had a continuous trade surplus with the Western Balkans. It peaked at €9.8 billion in 2012 and had a low of €7.5 billion in 2016. Between 2016 and 2019 exports to and imports from the Western Balkans increased, followed by a decrease in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in 2021 both imports and exports recovered strongly, peaking at €28.2 billion and €36.9 billion respectively.
Manufactured goods dominate trade with the Western Balkans
Figures 3 and 4 show the exports to and imports from the Western Balkans 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, and other manufactured goods. In 2021 manufactured goods made up 74.6 % of exports to and 76.2 % of imports from the Western Balkans.
In exports, other manufactured goods (30.8 %) had the largest share, followed by machinery and vehicles (28.2 %) and chemicals (15.6 %). For the primary products, the share was highest for energy (11.4 %) followed by food and drink (10.5 %) and raw materials (2.6 %).
In imports other manufactured goods (36.5 %) had the largest share, followed by machinery and vehicles (26.7 %) and chemicals (13.0 %). For the primary products, the share was highest for energy (8.9 %) followed by food and drink (8.3 %) and raw materials (6.0 %).
Serbia is the largest trade partner of the EU in the Western Balkans
Figure 5 shows that exports to all Western Balkan countries fell in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic but recovered in 2021. Over a longer period all had positive growth rates. Serbia accounts for almost half of the total EU exports to the Western Balkans. The growth of Serbia's exports between 2011 and 2021 in absolute terms was the largest of the six partners in the Western Balkans. In relative terms, Kosovo had the highest average annual growth rate (8.1 %), followed by Serbia (7.4 %), North Macedonia (6.5 %), Albania (4.9 %), Montenegro (4.1 %) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (3.8 %).
Figure 6 shows that imports from all Western Balkan countries except Kosovo fell in 2020 but recovered in 2021. Among them Serbia is the main import partner for the EU, with a little under half of total imports from the Western Balkans. Between 2011 and 2021, Serbia had the highest average annual growth rate of imports (10.7 %), followed by North Macedonia (9.7 %), Albania (8.5 %), Bosnia-Herzegovina (7.1 %), Kosovo (6.1 %) and Montenegro (5.4 %).
In 2021, the EU had a trade surplus with five of the six partners in the Western Balkans (Figure 7). The surplus was highest in Serbia (€4.5 billion), followed by Albania (€1.6 billion), Kosovo (€1.3 billion), Bosnia and Herzegovina (€1.0 billion) and Montenegro (€0.8 billion). The EU had a deficit only with North Macedonia (-€0.6 billion) .
The Western Balkans: a major trade partner for Croatia
Table 1 shows the exports to the Western Balkans by Member State. There were three Member States whose exports were above €4 billion: Germany (€6.5 billion), Italy (€4.9 billion) and Slovenia (€4.0 billion). For Germany (1.1 %) and Italy (2.3 %) these exports were only a small percentage of their total exports to countries outside the EU but for Slovenia the share was 31 %. The share was even higher in Croatia (64.5 %). Greece (16.7 %), Hungary (15.4 %) and Bulgaria (15.3 %) were the only other Member States where the share was above 10 %.
Table 2 shows that the three largest exporters to the Western Balkans were also the largest importers from them. Again, for Germany (1.8 %, €6.8 billion) and Italy (2.6 %, €4.1 billion) the shares in total extra-EU trade were small. For Slovenia (19.1 %, €2.9 billion) the share was more substantial, although not as high as the 40.4 % for Croatia.
Figure 8 shows that eight countries (Germany, Sweden, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Portugal, Malta and Estonia) had small trade deficits with the Western Balkan countries. Only Greece, Hungary (both €1.4 billion) and Slovenia (€1.1 billion) had trade a surplus of at least €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 27 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.
The United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU for the whole period covered by this article. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period (31 December 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. Consequently, while imports from any other extra-EU trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect the country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason, data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU trade partners.
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 (1 000 millions) 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 one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.
Because the 27 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.
* 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.
Direct access to
- 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