There is no clear position in the European Union regarding the "Open Balkans" initiative, an initiative that has provoked mixed reactions not only in the Western Balkans region, but also in international circles. In the European bloc, on the one hand, they support any initiative that affects the growth of European cooperation, but on the other hand, they see this initiative as a duplication of some processes, which are already ongoing.
The joint initiative of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is not being supported by Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Brussels they say that regional cooperation is not only welcome, but is also a condition for the countries of the region in the process of their integration into the EU, which also emerges as an obligation from the Stabilization and Association Process.
The problem with the "Open Balkans" initiative, according to some Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty interlocutors in Brussels, is the fact that this initiative has not provided a regional inclusiveness. On the other hand, it includes initiatives such as "regional collectivity" and the common market, which were worked on in the EU in the framework of the Berlin Process.
The EU special envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and Western Balkans issues, Miroslav Lajcak, was also quoted as saying that this initiative "is an unhealthy competition" for the European integration process of the countries in the region.
The support in principle for "any initiative that enhances regional cooperation" by the EU, but also by some member states, has been understood and used by the supporters of the "Open Balkans" initiative as direct support for this initiative. But in the EU they say that "there was no such direct support" and that in some European regions there are reservations about this initiative.
The Berlin Process itself - a German initiative supported by several important EU countries - although it aimed to help the countries of the region develop and thus prepare for EU integration. future, is not an initiative that is included in the EU framework.
Precisely in the Berlin Process, all countries in the region are treated in the same way, including Kosovo. This does not happen on the part of the EU due to the non-recognition of Kosovo's independence by five member states of the European bloc.
At the EU headquarters in Brussels they remind that the Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), an agreement on regional trade integration, already exists. Then there is the Sarajevo-based Regional Cooperation Council, the Belgrade-based regional transport community and several other EU-supported initiatives.
"There should be more political will, readiness and courage to implement existing agendas," say diplomatic sources in Brussels, rather than, as they call them, "initiatives that could provoke new divisions."
But, in direct questions to the EU whether it is for or against the "Open Balkans" initiative, they constantly answer that they understand the desire to move forward in regional cooperation, but it is necessary to have a process that includes the entire Western Balkans. ”.
As they say in Brussels, the main goal of the EU is "the creation of a common regional market, in accordance with the rules of the European Union, which was a political obligation from the joint EU-Balkan summit in Sofia."
The "Open Balkans" initiative is a continuation of the Balkan "mini-Schengen", which Kosovo has opposed before. Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia are part of this initiative, which is said to contribute to the creation of a common regional market.
The idea of "mini-Schengen" was presented in Novi Sad, Serbia on October 10, 2019, by the leaders of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania.
On July 29, 2021, when the initiative was renamed, at an economic forum held in Skopje, the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, called on all region to join this initiative. In the Washington Agreement, signed on September 4, 2020 in the White House, Kosovo had promised to become part of the "mini-Schengen" ./ REL