IAt the beginning of October 2021, during the Slovenian presidency of the European Union (EU), an EU-Western Balkan countries summit was unsuccessfully organized in Brdo pri Kranju, as part of the EU’s strategic cooperation with the Western Balkans . The summit reaffirmed the words of the Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when he declared that the EU “was a fairy tale on paper“And underlined that”there is no great international or European solidarity.“
The EU’s lack of interest in enlargement prompted the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to reflect on the future and seek optimal solutions to the complex situation. Recognizing the situation of the Balkan countries with regard to the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans, three leaders, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (PS) decided in October 2019 to “take fate in hand“And launched a visionary idea of establishing a”mini Schengen.“At the end of July 2021, this idea evolved into a regional initiative”Balkan open.The initiative does not replace EU membership, but a path to accelerated membership and the use of existing but underutilized potential, which will facilitate economic prosperity.
Leaders of the regional cooperation initiative “Open Balkan”Met on December 21, 2021 in Tirana / Elbasan to sign several agreements that will facilitate the movement of people, goods, capital and services between the three countries, as well as facilitate business operations. They signed an agreement on work permits which will make it easier for workers from Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia to obtain work permits and necessary documents. The Integrated Electronic Systems Agreement is expected to allow citizens of the three countries to file applications in other countries from any location. In addition, the four agreements relating to veterinary and phytosanitary inspections, which have also been signed, will facilitate trade in livestock, as well as products of plant and animal origin.
Good neighborliness and bilateral relations are the key to economic prosperity
Eeconomic prosperity is unimaginable without good neighborly relations and regional cooperation. The majority of merchandise trade takes place in the region, which is a strong incentive to improve bilateral and regional relations. There is no leadership and prosperity in an insecure and suspicious neighborhood. As in recent history the region has experienced tragic armed conflicts, it is important that States provide for an adequate confrontation with the past and eliminate the rhetoric of hatred that creates tension and discourages regional cooperation. Therefore, it is important to put an end to the abuse of universal jurisdiction over the prosecution of war criminals and to allow legal proceedings to be carried out in the State in which the respective crime was committed and / or in accordance with to a negotiated agreement between states, without secrecy or unilateral arrest warrants and arrests. The unilateral referral of war crimes cases from Serbia to justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a new practice and a positive contribution to the process of facing the truth and developing mutual trust.
Analysts believe that “Open Balkan”Initiative is a regional initiative for the Balkans for the 21st century, because it will eliminate border controls and other barriers to facilitate movement (people, goods, capital and services) in the region, will allow citizens to travel using only their identity card as a travel document. In addition, the initiative will also allow citizens to find employment anywhere in the region, if they have proof of their qualifications, as well as the recognition of diplomas and better cooperation in the fight against organized crime and response to natural disasters. The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of cooperation, and the current energy crisis the importance of mutual solidarity. The exchange of experiences and the assistance provided between the countries of the region in the context of integration into the EU are valuable.
Open Balkan Initiative – a voice and an opportunity for all
WThe countries of the Western Balkans must establish political, economic, scientific, cultural, sporting and any other more solid form of cooperation and act towards the EU as a group of countries with clearly defined demands and interests. As for the EU enlargement process, it is necessary to define when enlargement will actually take place, as the EU cannot postpone enlargement indefinitely. In this context, it is important to stress that regional cooperation does not imply that the countries of the region have abandoned their European path and their accession to the EU.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called all members of the “six of the Balkans” (Bosnia herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania and Serbia), to join the “Open Balkan», Independent initiative of all the differences that exist on the question of the recognition of the independence of Kosovo.
In its operation the “Open Balkan”The initiative can build on the experiences of cooperation within the so-called Visegrad Group States (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia), which often pursue a common approach within the framework of the EU with clearly articulated demands and positions. In addition, the Visegrad Group (V4) was formed so that the respective countries could become members of the EU and NATO more easily and quickly, which they achieved. Therefore, it is important that the countries of the region pursue a common EU approach and / or other foreign policy initiatives with one voice, as the actions of individual countries are insufficient and do not guarantee success. .
Kosovo, the most isolated region in Europe
Pproblems of regional cooperation are still present in the Western Balkans. Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin kurti (LVV) refused to participate in the “Open the Balkans” initiative on the pretext that Kosovo already has a clearly defined path, which is membership of the EU and NATO. In fact, Kosovar officials, including Kosovar Prime Minister Kurti, said it was an attempt to establish a Fourth Yugoslavia and “greater Serbia ”. Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović (DPS) and some leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina have advanced similar reasons for refusing membership in the initiative. It is surprising that the current Montenegrin government, which still has not significantly deviated from the policies and positions of Milo Đukanović, has taken a similar position. At the same time, some political leaders in the region believe that the initiative aims to create “greater albania. “
Current Albanian President Ilir Meta (LSI) said “[the project for] greater Serbia has failed, and that of greater Albania is not possible. ”
The dissemination of information on so-called hegemonic projects, whether they are projects for a greater Serbia, a greater Albania, a greater Bulgaria, a greater Hungary or a greater Croatia, dissuades the region from pursuing the necessary cooperation in all areas and create the spirit of cooperation and solidarity
Analysts believe Kosovo is the most isolated area in Europe. Namely, Kosovo does not have a visa waiver regime with EU member countries. In fact, it doesn’t even have a visa-free regime with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is causing enormous damage to Kosovo and its citizens. The leaders of Kosovo must be aware that cooperation must be established and solidarity built in the region, because on the world stage the actors are the regions and not the states. The EU is regional integration, while “Open the Balkans” is an economic pole in the making. It is no longer a question of will, but when will the remaining countries join the “Open the Balkans” initiative, because any delay will entail enormous losses for their economies and for businessmen, who, as taxpayers, pay the most for the budgets of their respective countries. It is unacceptable that Kosovo declares a two-month state of emergency due to the electricity shortage, instead of being able to ask for help on the basis of solidarity within the “Open the Balkans” framework.
No prosperity without proximity and friendliness
THere, there can be no economic prosperity if good neighborly relations are not developed and cultivated. The leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania were fully aware of this when they launched the “Open the Balkans” regional initiative in a historic attempt to promote proximity, cooperation and unity. The prospects for the Western Balkans are based on mutual understanding, interconnection and cooperation. Achieving the three requires lasting peace and stability. When the six Western Balkan countries take a common approach and speak with one voice to the EU, this will be a new quality and a new strength. Many opportunities for synergy and cooperation have remained untapped. The economy of scale is an important element in the framework of regional cooperation. “Open the Balkans” is an emerging economic hub and will create a competitive advantage for member countries and the region. “Open BalkanIs a peace project. It is a choice between the past and the future. At the Tirana summit, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said: “think less about the past and more about the future.” Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have yet to be convinced.