Prime Ministers of Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia met yesterday in Ohrid where they approved a declaration aimed at improving regional cooperation.
The action plan is based on the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union, which will also be implemented in the Western Balkans as part of what Edi Rama has called a "mini Schengen area".
The advantages of the mini Schengen area
The four fundamental freedoms include:
- free movement of goods: which provides for the elimination of customs barriers and the consequent free transport of goods between Albania, Serbia and Northern Macedonia.
- free movement of services: which refers to the possibility guaranteed to the citizens of the three countries to lend their activity in one of the two other states on the same conditions as the professionals who reside there, without having to settle in the state in which the service is provided.
- free movement of goods: which provides for all customs formalities between countries in the hands of citizens in transit and offers workers the opportunity to work in the territory of any of the three countries.
- free movement of capital: by virtue of which there is complete currency liberalization and integration in the financial services sector.
The goal is to encourage the creation of a common economic space, thus facilitating the exchange and movement of people and the influx of capital and investments. However, others have said no to this initiative, such as Bosnia and Montenegro.
The no of Kosovo
A different position, instead, for Kosovo which - through the words of President Thaçi - reiterated the need to refuse participation in this and all other regional initiatives until Bosnia and Serbia recognize Kosovo's independence:
"The only vision for Kosovo remains membership in the European Union and NATO. Therefore, we do not want to replace our Euro-Atlantic perspective with any regional initiative. The latter makes no sense if Bosnia and Kosovo do not recognize the independence of Kosovo.
Kosovo, while engaging in good neighborly relations and removing obstacles to the free movement of people and goods, cannot take part in a summit in which states that do not recognize the reality of independent Kosovo also take part."- wrote the head of state in a post on Facebook.
The creation of a "mini Schengen area" was also opposed by the leader of the Democratic Union of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa, who - again on Facebook - compared this initiative to a "mini-Yugoslavia".
The statements of the leaders
"The action plan envisages an 24 operating hourly border service on 24, with the possibility of free circulation with an identity card only for the citizens of this region. It also allows facilitations in the transport of goods and the recognition of documents between these countries with the sole objective of increasing the effectiveness in the circulation of goods and people."- said the Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
Along the same lines, Serbian President Aleksander Vucic stated that the initiative has the sole purpose of bringing free movement and economic benefits to the region.
"This represents the future for our states and our peoples. There is no Yugoslavia here, but only a better life for our citizens, more normal and of quality, so that we can move more easily. "- said Vucic.
The Albanian premier Edi Rama, on the other hand, focused mainly on the non-participation of Kosovo, calling it a "self-exclusion" from the initiative which, in his opinion, is of great importance because of the many advantages offered.
"There is nothing new in this summit compared to that for which we had already agreed in the last meetings, or the free movement of citizens, without queues or controls. This is not a customs union.
I tried to create a customs union with Kosovo, rejected by the government of the former prime minister (Isa Mustafa, ed), who today talks about the Yugoslav customs union. The initiative has nothing to do with this."- declared Rama.
Rama: the next meeting will be held in Durres
Furthermore, the president of the council has announced that the next summit between the three countries will be held in Durres on December 21, once again underlining the importance of the initiative:
"I want to thank Zaev for organizing a wonderful welcome. It is written in the Novi Sad document and it has been repeated several times that our idea is not to separate the Western Balkans, but on the contrary to include them all.
Federica Mogherini's successor will also take part in the next meeting in Durres, which will be an integral part of the initiative in the future. Montenegro and Bosnia have asked for time, while we have also agreed on the inclusion of Kosovo. ”- concluded the premier.