Telecommunications operators from the European Union (EU) and the Western Balkans (WB) signed a Roaming Declaration enabling the reduction of roaming charges between the EU and WB as of 1 October 2023, kicking off the EU-WB Summit in Tirana today.
“The first question we were asked after the Roam Like at Home has come to action in our region in July 2021, was when the roaming prices with the EU will be lowered. And that is the first thing we have started working on after that 1 July. So, I’m happy to say that ‘when’ has arrived, the roaming prices between the Western Balkans and the European Union are going down with the leaves next fall. But this is just the start of the process until the final objective of EU-WB roaming prices at the level nearing domestic ones is attained,” said Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Majlinda Bregu, at a press conference with Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Belinda Balluku, EU Enlargement Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, EU and WB telecommunications operators’ representatives, following the signing of the Declaration, said the RCC in a press statement.
In practical terms, this means that every WB and EU telecommunications operator, signatory of the Declaration, will consider introducing retail rate plans and options with lower charges for their roaming users in other mobile networks and the first significant reduction of data roaming prices will take effect as of 1 October 2023. It is important that policy-makers in the Western Balkans accelerate the implementation of policy reforms in the telecom sector, which are in line with the conclusions of the Western Balkans Digital Summit 2022, with the aim of creating a Common Regional Market of the Western Balkans and a more conducive business environment. Western Balkan economies should implement these policy reforms no later than the end of 2023.
“Negotiations to reach an agreement are never easy. Sometimes they are tooth and claw. But this Declaration is a result of strong engagement of the EU and WB telecommunications operators and support of the European Commission, RCC, as well as commitment of region’s authorities. Last month in Berlin we made a breakthrough with the three mobility agreements. Now roaming with the EU is another milestone we can mark in creating a Common Regional Market (CRM) in the Western Balkans. Every achievement and deliverable that is accomplished under the CRM agenda is a step forward towards establishing a welcoming investment climate that can attract high quality and durable investments in our region. We invite other telecommunication operators both from the EU and the Western Balkans to join the initiative at any time,” concluded Bregu.
The benefits are manifold. This will reduce cost of roaming for citizens in all of the Western Balkans and the EU while travelling in the region and EU as well as lower business operating costs and encourage doing business outside of their own borders. This initiative is remarkable, especially since it has been done on a voluntary basis between telecommunications operators.