Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania agree “mini Schengen”

ZAGREB, Nov 11 (Croatia Sun News) – Citizens of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania will be allowed to travel across the borders of the three countries using only their ID card, the leaders of the three Western Balkan countries agreed at a two-day summit in the North Macedonian lakeside town of Ohrid which ended on Sunday.

The agreement was reached as part of an initiative dubbed “mini Schengen”, to ensure free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

The Western Balkan leaders on Sunday discussed specific steps to promote the common regional market after the European Union refused to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Establishing the mini Schengen area will require a series of measures, regulations and laws to realise the ideas that were presented by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Zaev said that the initiative would open up new prospects and a new chapter for the region. “I think everyone will embrace this initiative because it makes us a bigger factor in the eyes of European countries,” he added.

Vucic said that the initiative would result in a considerable rise in investment in less than two years and would create a new atmosphere, one of normality and not of conflict and hatred.

Rama said that Kosovo, too, should be included in the mini Schengen area, adding that he expected Kosovo to be represented at the next meeting in Durres, set for 21 December.

The other three countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo – apparently were not so enthusiastic about the initiative.

According to Serbian media, Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic said that in his country there was no consensus or final position on the mini Schengen initiative, although it was generally in favour of strengthening cooperation in the region.

Zvizdic said that “the primary focus of Bosnia and Herzegovina is on EU integration,” adding that the country would adopt its final position on the initiative “in accordance with its procedures” and “after a serious analysis”.

Montenegro’s Economy Minister Dragica Sekulic said that her country measured any initiative against two standards – whether it accelerates Montenegro’s EU integration and how it benefits the Montenegrin citizens and the national economy.

Asked by the press if mini Schengen was an alternative to EU integration, both Zvizdic and Sekulic said that there was no alternative to EU integration for their countries.

Vucic and Rama strongly denied that the purpose of the Ohrid initiative was to replace the EU integration of the Western Balkan countries.

Despite Rama’s idea that the next meeting should also include Kosovo, initial messages from Pristina were not benevolent.

The leader of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo and a future partner in the coalition government, Isa Mustafa, opposed the mini Schengen plan, saying that such initiatives “distance the Western Balkan countries from EU integration” and put them under the wings of Eurasia which is dominated by Russia, media in Pristina said.

“At first glance it looks attractive, but basically it leads to a new Yugoslavia, with Albania and without Croatia and Slovenia. We didn’t support such ideas when we ran the government and we won’t support them whether we are in power or in opposition. Just as we don’t support changing the state borders of Kosovo,” Mustafa said.

(Source: Hina)

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