Balkans set for a free trade zone

Balkan leaders are due to meet in Thessaloniki tomorrow to put the finishing touches to a series of agreements that will see countries in the region cooperate in improving transport links as well as forming a free trade area. The 10 member states of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) are set to vote on several groundbreaking deals at the summit over the next two days. Key among these is the creation of the trading zone, which will replace 31 separate bilateral agreements that currently govern the trading rules in the Balkans. The agreement, which leaders will vote on tomorrow, is seen as a key boost to business activity in the region. Athens has also pushed for a deal obliging member states to improve their rail links, based on European Union specifications. The hope is that the region will soon be served by a high-speed rail network. Greece has attached great importance in recent months to the SEECP and is hoping that Brussels will allow the group to have a representative at EU meetings.