Operators from the European Union (EU) and Western Balkans signed a declaration to significantly reduce data roaming charges as of 1 October 2023, a move a council of the south-eastern European nations claimed would support their broader digital agenda by making services more affordable.

In a statement, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) explained the agreement is an attempt to bolster connectivity between citizens and the regions’ economies by offering retail rate plans and low-cost bundles for roaming users.

There is also a plan to introduce further reductions by 2027.

The declaration was signed by representatives of major operators including Orange, Deutsche Telekom, A1 Telekom Austria and BH Telecom, which pledged to introduce “effective and relevant offers for the consumers travelling between the EU and Western Balkans”.

As part of their commitment, the groups plan to explore options to condense data roaming surcharges by introducing incentives modelled on the EU Roam Like at Home initiative.

The RCC stated the pledge builds on improvements in reducing data surcharges in recent years.

Additionally, the RCC encouraged regulators in the Western Balkans to consider telecoms policy reform to further integrate the region’s economies with the EU, in line with aims detailed in a digital summit held in September.