Representatives of the EU Member States, the Western Balkans and Turkey, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, as well as representatives of the central banks of the Western Balkans and Turkey met for their annual economic policy dialogue. The dialogue aims at preparing the Western Balkans and Turkey for the future participation in the European Semester.

Conclusions issued after the meeting read that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic confronted EU Member States, the Western Balkans and Turkey with similar unprecedented major public health, economic and social challenges.

Participants welcomed the measures adopted by the Western Balkans and Turkey to limit the spread of the COVID-19, and underlined that “the adoption of temporary emergency measures should be done in a transparent manner and should not undermine the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights”.

As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, participants noted that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was sharply exacerbating the already ongoing slowdown, in particular affecting transport and tourism as well as remittances.

Once the temporary shock dissipates, efforts should be undertaken to accelerate the economic recovery and the country’s shock resilience by improving the quality of public finance by shifting public spending towards a more growth-supporting pattern and improving the targeting of social spending. Moreover, country-wide medium-term planning capacities as well and the quality of statistical data should be significantly improved”, reads the statement.

Participants invited Bosnia and Herzegovina to: Take the necessary fiscal measures to alleviate the economic shock of the COVID-crisis, in particular protecting the most vulnerable groups; accelerate the economic recovery, increase growth-enhancing public investment as a share of GDP, based on a comprehensive investment strategy, and improve the targeting of social transfers by increasing the share of means-tested benefits in total social spending; closely monitor financial stability challenges arising as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and take appropriate action if needed; strengthen the bank resolution framework by adopting the law on deposit insurance, and safeguard the integrity of the currency board arrangement and the independence of the central bank; establish an effective, coordinated and transparent mechanism to support the businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises and self-employed; ensure adequate and sustainable funding to strengthen the healthcare sector with an aim to improve access to quality public health care for all citizens; and take measures to preserve employment including through short-time work schemes, and strengthen without delay the capacity and human resources of employment offices to ensure more active support to registered jobseekers including an increased provision of active labor market policies, especially training, upskilling and reskilling.

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