The seven countries comprising the West Balkans (Albania and the newly independent nations of the former Yugoslavia – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) are in the process of developing modern aquaculture production systems as a means of providing healthy low-cost protein to their citizens and generating export earnings. The region has an advantageous situation with regard to aquaculture development, having large areas of high-quality fresh waters, skilled and relatively inexpensive labour and proximity to large markets in the European Union.
To realize this potential, Western Balkan countries are attempting to develop the capacity to meet international standards for trade in live aquatic animals and their products. Primary among these are the standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as expressed in the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code and the Manual for Diagnosis of Aquatic Animal Diseases, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the standards for market access as required by the European Union (EU), as expressed in various EU Directives. Achieving these goals requires meeting high standards for aquaculture production, including a high level of capacity to address issues related to the control and prevention of aquatic animal diseases. This regional TCP proposal addresses the concerns expressed by the five participating FAO member countries regarding the need to improve national and regional capacity for aquatic animal biosecurity. The proposal builds upon the results of an assessment of the status of national planning, policy and capacity for aquatic animal health in the five participating countries which enabled identifying the constraints to achieving national goals.