Tirana and Pristina at odds as Kosovo remains excluded from ‘mini Schengen’

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 11, 2019 10:37

Tirana and Pristina at odds as Kosovo remains excluded from ‘mini Schengen’

Story Highlights

  • “First, Kosovo was deliberately bypassed by Serbia at the First Summit of this new regional initiative. Second, Kosovo's only vision remains EU and NATO membership. Therefore, we do not want in any circumstances to replace our Euro-Atlantic perspective with any regional initiative. And thirdly, this regional initiative is meaningless as long as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina do not recognize Kosovo's independence,” Thaci wrote.

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TIRANA, Nov. 11 – A meeting of Western Balkan leaders was held in Ohrid on Sunday, a follow-up to the October 10 meeting held in Novi Sad for the creation of a Balkan ‘mini Schengen’ between Albania, Serbia and Northern Macedonia.

Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina were also invited to Sunday’s meeting but whereas Montenegro and Bosnia responded they would have to think the initiative over, Kosovo downright rejected the invitation. 

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci wrote on Saturday that he is refusing Kosovo’s participation in the ‘mini Schengen’ for several reasons.

“First, Kosovo was deliberately bypassed by Serbia at the First Summit of this new regional initiative. Second, Kosovo’s only vision remains EU and NATO membership. Therefore, we do not want in any circumstances to replace our Euro-Atlantic perspective with any regional initiative. And thirdly, this regional initiative is meaningless as long as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina do not recognize Kosovo’s independence,” Thaci wrote. 

He wrote on Facebook that Kosovo is committed to good neighboring relations and removing obstacles from the free movement of goods and people. 

“But Kosovo cannot be part of a summit where states participate that do not yet recognize the reality of an independent Kosovo. We are committed to overcoming current obstacles through dialogue and mutual recognition. Only when such a thing happens will we become part of such regional initiatives as equal states,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Albania, Serbia and Northern Macedonia did not hide their satisfaction with the upcoming free movement of people and goods. 

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev called his country’s citizens’ dream of a modern 21st century Balkans.

“We launched an initiative or action plan that highlights a different Balkans from what we know,” he said.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who spoke longer than everyone else, dismissed accusations coming especially from Kosovo that the initiative is revitalizing Yugoslavia. 

He said it is not the idea of ​​the Western Balkans to be divided but to be fully involved in the initiative, which only aims the free movement of people throughout the Western Balkans region. He called the initiative an internal will rather than a patronizing external initiative.

Rama expects Kosovo to be included as an equal in this process and said that this time Kosovo was not obstructed by anyone but actually excluded itself from the process. 

Rama added that the phrase ‘mini Schengen’ is not appropriate but should be called the Western Balkan Schengen.

Serbian President Aleksanar Vucic on his side is proud of reaching an agreement “on a number of important things” and said he is confident that in less than a year and a half, investments in the region will increase significantly in all three countries.

He added that “it doesn’t matter who attacks you, but what matters is what the people think. There is no Yugoslavia but just a better and more qualitative life for everyone in a normal and peaceful environment and not an environment of conflict and hatred.”

Head of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Isa Mustafa, one of the largest political forces in Kosovo, also said the ‘mini Schengen’ looks like a Yugoslavia in the making.

“We who have lived through Yugoslavia do not want to experience it again. We also don’t want those who have not lived through it to experience it,” Mustafa said.

LDK deputies who also spoke about the initiative, on the other hand, argued that Rama is undertaking this initiative to avert attention from the internal crisis happening in Tirana and within his own circle. 

Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina have asked for some time to assess their implication. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdic said that “we in BiH do not have a consensus on this initiative or have a firm stance and will need Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions, such as the Council of Ministers or the Presidency, to be formally introduced with the content of the initiative and the expected benefits from it.”

Montenegrin Economy Minister Dragica Sekulic said that her country believes in general in regional interconnection but also believes there is a lot of unused potential in the existing regional initiatives and that it will allow experts to decide on this latest one. 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 11, 2019 10:37