The operationalisation of the regional roaming agreement is a signal of strong regional cooperation and integration of the Western Balkans. It directly affects the cooperation among countries, communication between citizens, the digital transformation of the region, and the development of the digital society.
It was a message of the Meeting of Ministers in charge of digital transformation and ICT Policy. The Minister for Public Administration, Digital Society and Media, Tamara Srzentić, said that Montenegro would continue to support, follow and implement all regional agreements and programmes on its European path.
“In the previous period, the governments of the Western Balkan countries did an enormous job on digital integration. At the same time, we created a solid foundation for strong economies and connecting the region,” Srzentić pointed out.
Roaming in the Western Balkans the same as at home, she assessed, directly affects the region’s digital transformation. It creates conditions for more sizable and more accessible Internet use, a prerequisite for the digital society development, thus facilitating communication between our citizens and cooperation between countries.
“This process provides obvious benefits to the citizens, especially considering all the advantages of using roaming without additional costs in the Western Balkan countries, just like being in the home country”, said Srzentić.
She emphasised that the joint regional market is a springboard for closer integration of the region with the European Union’s single market before the accession to the Union.
“The action plan for the common regional market is a turning point for the Western Balkans region, especially concerning digital transformation, free movement of goods, regional investments and innovations, e-services, human mobility, etc.” We are committed to the regional cooperation process and convinced that together with the Western Balkan countries, we are laying the foundations for further region’s integration with the European Union,” said Srzentić.
She said she was proud that Montenegro would host the Digital Summit of the Western Balkan countries.
“In cooperation with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the Western Balkan economies and other partners, we are preparing this high-level event, launching a new four-year cycle of activities in digital transformation, connectivity, digital skills, digital economy, trust, and cybersecurity,” said Srzentić.
According to her, Montenegro advocates the improvement and efficient implementation of the digital transformation agenda and providing better communication, cross-border cooperation and data exchange with the region and the EU for all citizens, companies and NGOs.
“The Government of Montenegro has adopted, and will continue to adopt, a set of laws and bylaws encouraging innovation, e-government, e-business and the introduction of “paperless administration”. We are currently working on the Digital Transformation Strategy and the Cyber Security Strategy to direct the path of digital development of Montenegro. We have started working on the National Program for Attracting Digital Nomads. Thereby, we must use all the best regional practices and knowledge in creating our country as a real destination for the life of digital nomads,” said Srzentić.
Deputy Prime Minister, Dritan Abazović, said Montenegro was ideal for putting a stamp on roaming free.
“This is a country that has demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate, a peacetime good-neighbourly policy the future, open to all and with outstretched hands towards our neighbours. We are a country that significantly depends on the tourist economy, where all people are welcome,” said Abazović.
He pointed out that it was a great incentive for business and that we should turn to development, mobility, and infrastructure.
“We must do everything to unite our countries more and more. We must state that our borders will not change, but they should be invisible. The Western Balkan countries’ borders should be invisible, be it roaming, communications, or physical borders. The ultimate goal is that the Western Balkan countries be in the EU. They have to be a part of a large European family in terms of values, knowledge, achievements in civilisation, and development,” Abazović concluded.
In a video message, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said that digitalisation is the basis for connecting innovations in a green sustainable economy and an inclusive society, and the results will be visible to all citizens.
“Since the introduction of roaming like at home, 80 percent of young people aged 15 to 24 have noticed the benefits. We need to implement the economic investment plan in the Western Balkans. We will do our best to speed up the process. That will facilitate access to digital goods and strengthen the economy’s potential and development,” Várhelyi said.
The Minister for Economic Development, Jakov Milatović, said three essential things are being promoted: tourism, the region’s political economy, and better and stronger regional cooperation.
“I am delighted this roaming free initiative in the Western Balkans comes to life on 1 July, at the beginning of this year’s tourist season. It will be of great benefit to our citizens and guests who will enjoy their vacation in Montenegro. They will not need to worry about the price of calls and messages to their family and relatives,” explained Milatović.
As he said, mutual regional cooperation can bring practical and concrete results all citizens feel and see.
“The Government of Montenegro will always support such initiatives and be a committed partner in their implementation. It is essential to keep in mind that European partners have a key role and help economically and politically. I think it is the right time to thank them a lot for everything they have done so far,” Milatović said.
The Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Majlinda Bregu, said that the agreement was a springboard for further work and improvement of the citizens’ lives and everyone’s success.
“We are doing everything to bring the region closer to the European Union. We are here to help leaders in the region. We can make our resources available to you. Your role at the highest political level is crucial for the well-being of all citizens,” Bregu said.