Albania, N. Macedonia and Serbia to establish ‘mini Schengen’ by 2021

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 10, 2019 19:50

Albania, N. Macedonia and Serbia to establish ‘mini Schengen’ by 2021

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  • In the function of pushing forward the joint plan within the Berlin process, Rama said that "we will not wait for our European friends to sit us down, but we will do everything to make this process a reality, not just for the three countries, but for all countries in the region, including Kosovo.”

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TIRANA, Oct. 10 – Prime Ministers of Albania and North Macedonia Edi Rama and Zoran Zaev met Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Thursday in the city of Novi Sad, to discuss what has been called a ‘Balkan Schengen’ by the media lately. 

The strategy of joint economic development – the formation of the so-called ‘small Schengen area’ – was one of the trilateral meeting’s main topics. 

A declaration of intent was signed after the three officials address the media.

In his speech, Rama stated among others that efforts to implement this project must be undertaken within 2021. 

According to Rama, within this year, free movement between these Western Balkan countries should not be seen just as an aspiration, but should be made a reality. 

He stated that the past of the countries should not hold back the integration and the steps that need to be taken.

“At this meeting we have raised the need to boost the economy, reduce unemployment, improve the lives of citizens, increase the speed of trade exchanges and the 5 underlying fundamental European freedoms,” said Rama.

In the function of pushing forward the joint plan within the Berlin process, Rama said that “we will not wait for our European friends to sit us down, but we will do everything to make this process a reality, not just for the three countries, but for all countries in the region, including Kosovo.”

Speaking in figures, Rama said that until now, citizens of the Balkan countries had to wait 26 million hours a year to cross the border and that the cost of these obstacles was five times higher. Meanwhile, the next meeting between the three states will take place on November 10, in Ohrid, Northern Macedonia.

On his side, Vucic said the document is based on the free movement of people and services, as citizens deserve a better life and less unemployment. 

“Our goal is to create the opportunity to cross the border by ID by the end of 2021,” he said.

Zaev and Rama arrived to Serbia on Wednesday, and last night they walked through the streets of Novi Sad with their hosts, President Vucic and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. 

On that occasion, Vucic said that for the three countries, but also for the others, this meeting is of crucial importance.

“I am happy that we have started taking care of ourselves and that we do not need a tutor, that in this way, and in a relaxing atmosphere with the music in Novi Sad, we can agree on a better future for our workers, our farmers, especially for young people, to stay in our countries,” Vucic said.

Economists estimate that by establishing a ‘mini Schengen’ in the Western Balkans, companies from across the region would gain a larger regional, common market with nearly 20 million consumers. 

The initiative was welcomed by the regional chambers of all Western Balkan countries, which bring together more than 350,000 companies.

Meanwhile, however, other economic and regional experts have pointed out some drawbacks to this planned cooperation. 

For starters, regional politics experts told local media in Albania over the last weeks, as talk about the ‘mini Schengen’ surfaced when the leaders of the three Balkan countries met at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, in September, that there has already been a dozen initiatives like the one being discussed undertaken in the Balkans. 

For example, Albania, Serbia and Northern Macedonia are part of the CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement) agreement, which also includes Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Moldova. CEFTA aims precisely at facilitating the movement of goods and free trade between these countries until they join the EU.

According to Albanian Institute for International Studies experts, the core of the problem in the Balkans, beyond the underdeveloped economic cooperation among neighboring states, is the frozen conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, which still stands partially unrecognized in the middle of the ‘mini Schengen’s’ geographical extension, making it questionable how beneficial these kinds of economic cooperation plans are. 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 10, 2019 19:50