‘Open Balkans’ initiative moves forward with signing of six agreementsReading Time: < 1 minutes
The so-called ‘Open Balkans’ initiative to ease movement, travel and trade restrictions between Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia has taken a big leap forward. Leaders from all three countries – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, – met today in Albania, signing six agreements, among them agreements on labour market access and creating a common database for citizens’ IDs.
The overall concept of Open Balkans is to create a border-less area where trade and investment can happen among the participants all of whom are vying to eventually accede to the European Union. Border controls between the three countries are scheduled to be removed by 2023 to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
In a Tweet, North Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev wrote: “Within the framework of the Tirana Summit with Prime Minister Rama and President Vucic we will sign more multilateral and bilateral agreements for the realization of the basic rights of the free movement of people, products and capital, as part of the proposed benefits and for greater regional cooperation and promoting connection between the Western Balkan countries.”
Rama, Zaev and Vucic came up with the initiative in 2019 as an alternative to EU accession given the West Balkan countries’ frustration with an unclear roadmap to joining the EU – thus far, only Montenegro and Serbia have been allowed to open accession talks.
While all six Western Balkan countries have been invited to join Open Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro have refused to participate.