JICA Balkan Office covers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Assistance to Balkan countries began in 1990, when JICA accepted first training participants from Albania to Japan, and last year JICA Balkan Office marked the 10th anniversary since its opening in Belgrade.
At this moment, Balkan countries are tackling social and economic development as they are approaching the accession to the EU. In this regard, JICA Balkan Office is assisting each country in their endeavors by focusing on environmental conservation, development of private sector and consolidation of peace.
Furthermore, as Balkan countries aim at joining the EU, they are making efforts to adapt to the environmental standards of the European Union and JICA is providing assistance by utilizing Japanese experience and advanced environmental technologies in overcoming various environmental pollution.
As Balkan countries are facing high unemployment rate, JICA's efforts are also focused on activation of domestic economy and promotion of employment. Through technical cooperation, JICA has introduced mentoring system for small and medium enterprises and promoted foreign direct investments.
Although at the end of the 20th century this region has experienced severe conflicts, today's picture has drastically changed. In Belgrade Philological High School, I met students who learn Japanese and dream about working in anime industry in Japan. I also got involved in a conversation with a taxi driver who told me "You are Japanese, right? I am a huge fan of Japanese actors Toshiro Mifune and Ken Takakura." I was surprised by the fact that many people practice Judo, Karate and Kendo.
Reason for this may be found in the fact that Balkan countries and Japan have maintained good relations for a long time, and in all six countries there are people who admire Japan for its fast recovery after the World War 2, modern technology and highly developed economy. Moreover, immediately after the conflicts in the Balkans ceased, Japan extended its helping hand in the reconstruction endeavors of Balkan countries. It seems that people from the Balkans do not forget it. On the other hand, we also should not forget that after the Great Tohoku Earthquake, many offers to help were coming from Balkan countries, indeed.
I sincerely hope that we will further develop and strengthen high quality cooperation, based on trust, and make it valuable for all sides.
Hideya Kobayashi, Chief Representative
JICA Balkan Office
Mr. Kobayashi during his visit to Kendo lesson, instructed by Senior Volunteer Ms. Kumon