GRAZ -- The Greece crisis has affected the economy and the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries, a gathering in Graz, Austria, has concluded.
"The Greek crisis has reduced the confidence in (EU) enlargement and discredited the whole region because Greece 'fell'," said Ritsa Panagiotou of the Center of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE) in Athens.
"The events in Greece are the food on the plate for Euro-skeptics," she added.
She noted that Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro to a lesser extent, were particularly vulnerable, because Greece was among the leading investment and trading partners in the region and had a significant share in the banking sector in these countries.
Panagiotou added that nearly 4,000 Greek companies have so far invested in the region and helped create some 200,000 jobs.
Visiting professor at the State University of Bucharest Franz-Lothar Altmann said that the Greek crisis had further fueled the already existing skepticism towards EU enlargement.
By 2009, total Greek investments in the Western Balkans reached 12 billion euros, while the region saw no new investments since, said Altman. According to him, from the first half of 2009 until the end of 2011, 2,000 Greek enterprises moved from the region to Bulgaria.
The gathering also heard that in 2010 Greek companies withdrew 1.3 billion euros from the Western Balkan countries. In Serbia alone Greek investments shrank almost ten times: from 336 million in 2007, to 46 million in 2008 and 2009.
The crisis in Greece also reflected on the drop in remittances, hitting Albania particularly hard, as nearly 600,000 Albanians live and work in Greece.
According to Panagiotou, the Albanian diaspora in Greece in 2009 sent home 900 million euros, which was approximately nine percent of Albania's GDP that year.