Sustainable Development Goals acceleration and European Union integration in accession countries: the cases of Albania, Montenegro and Serbia

Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

An event called “Sustainable Development Goals acceleration and European Union integration in accession countries: the cases of Albania, Montenegro and

Serbia,” was organized in the margins of the High-Level Political Forum 2018 bringing together senior government representatives from these countries, UN Agencies, international development agencies and more.

The 2030 Agenda presents a vision to integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions of development into a sustainable global society. In the specific context of the accession countries, this agenda interacts with the EU integration process.

The Government of Albania presented its Voluntary National Report to the High Level Political Forum in July 2018, Montenegro reported in 2016 and Serbia will be reporting in 2019.

Drawing on the examples of these three countries, the discussion focused on the questions of how to maximize the mutual reinforcement of SDGs and EU integration, how can SDGs help bring the sub-region together, offering a common vision toward sustainable peace and prosperity while advancing reforms to accelerate accession and the SDGs.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner noted:” The EU accession process has proven to be a major accelerator for governance and economic reforms and transformations that are critical for achieving the SDGs. It also offers countries significant pre- and post-accession resources including financial, technical assistance, policy models, and fosters cultural exchange. Linking the EU integration process with SDGs makes good sense, and the language of SDGs can help illustrate to citizens the benefits of EU membership in terms that are relevant to everyday life – clean water, renewable energy, quality health care, fairness in governance, and leaving no one behind, for example. Employing the framework of the 2030 Agenda also helps Governments to express the aims of its reforms clearly and strongly. Just as importantly, it creates a common language with

civil society, which is advocating for reforms.The universality of Agenda 2030 means that Albania can learn from the efforts of the EU’s current 28 Member States. Albania should accelerate reforms – addressing environmental protection or social inclusion for example – not in order to gain entry to the EU, but as another member of the European family who is doing the same.”.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Albania Senida Mesi present at the event underlined:” The perspective of SDGs in our region is strongly related with our common path as countries in accession towards the EU membership. Being a member of the EU, remains not only an aspiration. It is considered as the main driver of our reforms with important ramifications for development prospects in our country, and the region as a whole.This in itself is associated with the achievement of SDGs. Reaching EU accession and achieving 2030 Agenda and SDGs are mutually reinforcing. These processes- both require common national vision and reforms that are synchronized with each-other. The main lesson we’ve learned from the Berlin Process is that EU integration and regional cooperation really work when they deliver for the citizens”.

Brian Williams UN Resident Coordinator in Albania amongst others underlined:” From the beginning, the UN in Albania has underscored with all development partners – especially the EU but other important ones like Switzerland – that the UN was not promoting the design of a new set of projects parallel to existing efforts. Rather, the point is to use the SDGs as a lens to look at the range of existing programmes, and using existing planning, coordination and monitoring structures (many of them oriented around EU processes) identify areas that need more attention. I always say that SDGs are not something to be implemented – a word which implies a programme – but rather achieved – they are goals after all.

The event was organized by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albania to the United Nations, jointly with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland, and UNDP.