BELGRADE – Businesses from Serbia and Albania met on October 14 in an effort to boost economic ties and stabilize the Balkans region still troubled by tensions from the 1990s war.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama inaugurated the gathering in Serbia’s southern city of Nis, some 200 kilometers south of Belgrade.

Serbia and Albania remain at odds over Kosovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian and former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize the split, which Albania supports.

Both countries want to join the European Union.

Serbia’s Vucic said that despite their differences, his government welcomes Albanian businesses.

Albania’s Rama told the business gathering that “our aim is to turn our borders that separate us into bridges that connect us.”

Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic on Friday urged Albanian businesspeople to invest and do business in Serbia, adding that his government would in every way help them to develop their businesses.

“You are welcome in Serbia,” Vucic told a Serbian-Albanian business forum in Nis.

Improving the relations with Albania also means development of economic cooperation, and today’s event proves that the Berlin Process makes much sense, Vucic said.

A model of economic growth based on deeper integration with the EU is definitely the best model for Western Balkan countries, Vucic said, noting that investments and higher productivity were the most significant.

There has been progress in bilateral trade, which still totals a very meagre 102 mln euros, he said.

We want to boost this trade volume dramatically, Vucic said.

Once the highway from Nis to Pristina has been completed, it will take four and a half hours to get from Belgrade to Durres, and Serbian businesspeople will have a good link with Albanian ports, Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic said.

“That highway is important for the whole of that part of Serbia, for all four municipalities in the Toplica region, the whole Nisava region. Once we make that highway, it will take four and a half hours to get from Belgrade to Tirana and Durres, so I ask you, esteemed Serbian businessmen: which port will be the nearest, and why not use that and do something for ourselves and our country?” Vucic said.

“It is good to analyze the present, it is great to study the past, but it is the most important to live and work for the future”, said the PM.