Third Balkan Schengen Summit in Durrës, Leaders: The Best Initiative for Common Development

 Senior representatives from Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro were present today in Tirana as participants in the third meeting of the Balkan Schengen Initiative, aimed at improving regional co-operation.

The meeting is supported by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, that of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

This time the meeting was held in Albania, following two previous meetings in Novi Sad and Ohrid. The guests visited some of the areas affected by the earthquake in Durres.

Following the Leaders' Session in Tirana, the activities were concluded with a joint press conference, during which the leaders spoke about the Balkan Schengen initiative and unanimously stated that this initiative is inclusive, unconditional and does not exclude anyone.

In his speech, Prime Minister Rama thanked the leaders for the solidarity shown to our country after the November 26 earthquake that struck Albania. On the Balkan Schengen initiative, he said that it was unconditional, open to all, and considered as incomprehensible Kosovo's refusal to participate in the meeting.

"We are here to build the bridge between the past and the future and my deep conviction is that this whole process is in full coherence with the ambition expressed by all countries and with each country's commitment to be a part of the European family ”, said Mr. Rama.

He added that this initiative would not stop and underlined that in no case did history show that self-exclusion, closure or isolation may have brought fruit to other generations, thus referring to Kosovo's rejection of the invitation.

Milo Djukanovic, after expressing his solidarity with the victims of November 26th, stoped on the Balkan Schengen initiative, which he underlined that the initiative welcomes all who see its good side.

“This initiative is inclusive and everyone who sees the good can come together. Regional initiatives create opportunities for us to strengthen our capacities within the broader co-operation where we want to be members," said Djukanovic.

He confirmed that they are ready to be the hosts of the next meeting of this initiative as he said they should promote dialogue on any topic of importance to them.

Mr. Vucic also expressed solidarity with the disaster affecting Albania on November 26, which he said on Monday his government would make a decision to donate to Albania a considerable sum of money, ranking Serbia among the most powerful donors who have helped our country.

Among the issues discussed he mentioned the facilitation of trade in goods and services, as well as the inflow of services capital, for which he said, has made important decisions.

"We will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at customs, and will facilitate procedures. At these border points we will have more lanes for trucks. This will reduce operating costs and improve the standards of our citizens. We will try to create a common labor market and we will have the same systems.” Vucic said.

Prime Minister Zaev expressed his condolences to the victims as well, calling on leaders to continue providing assistance. On the Balkan Schengen initiative, he said that forces must unite, as this process has many benefits.

“One of our goals is One Stop Shop, so if the border points are one-stop now, in the future they will be no border at all. We need to introduce electronic control of papers. We have decided in February to sign a memorandum on the free movement of people and to unify the procedures for issuing work permits,” said Mr. Zaev.

At the end of his speech, he gave some details about the upcoming meeting of this initiative, which he said will take place in Belgrade and the exact date will be set by President Vucic.

Mr. Zaev agreed that after that the next meeting would take place in Podgorica and then continue in Pristina and North Macedonia.

History of the Balkan Schengen

The initiative to create a common economic zone in the region, originally proposed in 2017, is being opposed by many parties. Since the first proposals, two meetings have been held to concretize this initiative, while the third is expected to take place today in Durres.

The idea of ​​closer co-operation among the Western Balkan states was put forward at a Regional Summit in Trieste in 2017, where the participating countries agreed on an action plan towards a regional economic zone.

The initiative for the creation of the Balkan Schengen was materialized in October of this year, following the European Union's refusal to open the negotiation process for Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia.

The initiative remains open to the remaining members of the Balkan countries, Zaev, Vucic and Rama have said, inviting thus Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo to join the Balkan Schengen.

This initiative aims at the free movement of people, goods and services and the strengthening of economic nodes in the region. The finalization of these regional objectives is expected by 2021.

However, such an initiative has been welcomed with debate and criticism in public opinion, and one of the main reasons is the non-recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia, while Kosovo maintains a 100 percent tax on Serbian goods.

Kosovo, meanwhile, has refused an invitation to join the next meeting. These tensions are not only challenging in a bilateral sense but fundamentally undermine the idea of ​​regional cooperation.

To date, two meetings have been held between the leaders of Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia, respectively in Novi Sad, where the Balkan Schengen Initiative was announced and in Ohrid where the meeting served to further deepen the way in which this initiative functioned and also its purpose.
Third Balkan Schengen Summit in Durrës, Leaders: The Best Initiative for Common Development Third Balkan Schengen Summit in Durrës, Leaders: The Best Initiative for Common Development Saturday, December 21, 2019 Rating: 5
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