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Western Balkans

Western Balkans

Trade plays an important role in the EU's efforts to promote peace, stability, freedom and economic prosperity in the Western Balkans.

Trade picture

For all of the Western Balkan partners, the EU is the leading trade partner accounting for almost 70% of the region's total trade; while the region's share of overall EU trade is only 1.4%.

Trade between the EU and the Western Balkans was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, falling by 7.8% compared to 2019, in line with the decline in trade in other markets. However, trade with the region has grown by 184% over the past 10 years, with the total trade between the EU and the Western Balkans still reaching over EUR 50 billion in 2020. This trade expansion has overall been to the benefit of the Western Balkan partners; in the last 10 years, the region increased its exports to the EU by 218% against a more modest increase of EU exports to the region of 165%. 

Western Balkans:

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo*.

In 2020, the EU's main imports from Western Balkans were

  • machinery and appliances (24.9%),
  • base metals (11.4%),
  • and chemicals (10.0%).

The EU's exports to the Western Balkans were mainly

  • machinery and appliances (21.9%),
  • chemicals (11.5%),
  • and base metals (9.3%).

EU-Western Balkans: Trade in goods

Trade in goods 2018-2020, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2018 22.3 30.6 8.3
2019 23.0 31.9 8.9
2020 21.3 29.2 7.9

Unless otherwise mentioned “EU” concerns for all indicated years the current European Union of 27 Member States.

Date of retrieval: 12/04/2021

More statistics on Western Balkans

EU and the Western Balkans

All countries of the Western Balkans have a European perspective, which was first recognised during the Feira European Council in 2000.  It was further confirmed by the Thessaloniki European Council in 2003 and more recently by the Sofia European Council in May 2018. This European perspective is integrated into the Stabilisation and Association Process, which is the EU's policy in relation to the countries of the Western Balkans. Under this process, all Western Balkans countries have a common future as EU Member States.

Since the launch of the Stabilisation and Association Process, the EU has progressively concluded bilateral FTAs –referred to as "Stabilisation and Association Agreements" (SAAs) with each of the Western Balkan partners: Albania (2009), North Macedonia (2004), Montenegro (2010), Serbia (2013), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2015) and Kosovo* (2016). The SAAs are tools which provide for the economic development and political stabilisation of the countries in the region, and for the creation of a close, long-term association between the EU and the Western Balkans.  In effect, the SAAs constitute the legal instrument for alignment to the EU acquis and progressive integration into the EU market.

The SAAs have established a free-trade area over a transitional period which has now ended for all but Kosovo* (2026).  The Agreements foresee the elimination of duties and non-tariff restrictions on bilateral trade and cover goods in all Chapters of the Harmonised System.  Only few exceptions, concerning some agricultural and fishery products, are not fully liberalised, and are subject to reduced duties and/or preferential quantitative concessions.

In addition, the agreements include provisions concerning competition matters, a high level of protection of intellectual property rights and strengthened co-operation in customs matters.   They also include additional disciplines concerning, notably, government procurement, legislative approximation in many areas including standardisation, as well as provisions regarding services and establishment.

For more information, see also: Commission Communication on "Western Balkans : Enhancing the European perspective" (March 2008), and the 2019 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy.

In order to further develop regional trade and to offer new opportunities for economic operators, a system of diagonal cumulation of origin has been set up between the European Union, the Western Balkans participating to the Stabilisation and Association Process and Turkey. This system allows a participating partner to use materials originating in other partner(s) of the zone under advantageous conditions in the manufacture of final goods which are exported to the European Union, the Western Balkans or Turkey.

Additional Information

Trade relations are part of the EU's overall political and economic relations with the Western Balkans. The EU is present on the ground with EU Delegations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo*.

The EU strongly supports the membership of the Western Balkans states in the World Trade Organization (WTO):

  • Albania (2000), North Macedonia (2003) and Montenegro (2011) are already WTO members.
  • The WTO accession negotiations with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are still ongoing.

The Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) is a single Free Trade Agreement (FTA) linking all the Western Balkans and Moldova.

  1. * This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.