The governments of several Balkan countries outside of the European Union signed a pact to abolish regional roaming charges by July 2021, bringing them closer to policies introduced within the EU.

At the Digital Summit of the Western Balkans representatives from Serbia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo agreed to reduce rates on a sliding scale.

In a statement announcing the move, the Serbian government said consumer roaming charges will be reduced by an average of 27 per cent from 1 July 2019 for communications between Serbia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Fees between Albania and the other nations involved will be reduced by 85 per cent on the same date.

Although not mentioned in Serbia’s statement, the policy is reported by EUActiv and several other news outlets as including Kosovo. Details on the price reduction to Kosovo, which is not recognised as an independent state by Serbia and several other nations, were not disclosed.

As of July 2019, users will be charged a maximum of the local equivalent of €0.19 per minute for a voice call, €0.05 for an SMS message, and €0.18 per megabyte of data.

Serbia’s deputy prime minister Rasim Ljajic said the pricing was a “significant reduction in the prices of roaming services and refers to the transition period, practically from now until July 1, 2021, when we will have the complete abolition of roaming in the region.”

The announcement was made together with European Commissioner for digital economy and society Mariya Gabriel and its commissioner for European neighbourhood and enlargement negotiations Johannes Hahn.

Abolition of roaming charges brings the region’s telecommunications policies closer to the European Union.

Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are all “candidate countries” for EU membership and are in the process of integrating EU legislation into national law – a move which is a prerequisite for formal application. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are defined as potential candidates for EU membership.