Although initially included in the talks on the initiative, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, have not participated in the launch of the "Open Balkan" initiative which took place in Skopje on Thursday seeing no political vision in it.
Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti reiterated on Thursday while speaking to Radio Free Europe that for Kosovo, the so-called ‘Mini-Schengen’ is without any vision for the region.
"We have proposed advancing regional cooperation from CEFTA to SEFTA, according to EFTA-EEA model, from which all Western Balkans countries would benefit simultaneously," said Kurti.
Kurti’s tougher stance comes after the previous Kosovo PM, Avdullah Hoti, pledged to join the initiative as part of an agreement signed in separate documents with Serbia’s President Vucic under former US President Donald Trump’s auspices in Washington in September 2020.
In the meantime Bosnia and Montenegro said they saw no particular benefits from it, as easing travel and trade are already covered by the wider CEFTA agreement, and by bilateral agreements between the region’s countries.
North Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev, the host of the meeting, said the good thing with the initiative is that it is entirely open and that each country can choose whether to participate.
“The rest of Europe will respect us more if we are united, and besides, each of the Balkan countries can choose which part of this initiative they want to participate in, according to its own interests,” said Zaev, who was seen with the Albanian PM, Edi Rama and Serbian President Alexandar Vucic strolling along the roads of Skopje on Wednesday afternoon meeting and taking pictures with citizens of Skopje cheerfully.
The three political leaders seemed very enthusiastic about their initiative trying to spread it to the broad public opinion of their countries.
In the meantime a diplomat told argumentum.al that the fact that the start of free border travelling is set for January 2023 veils the initiative with a shadow of hesitancy regarding the concrete implementation.
"Many political events will happen, particularly in the frame of the EU integration process which might make worthless the so called Open Balkans," he said on condition of anonymity.
According to him, the Conference on the Future of Europe can introduce new initiatives embracing Western Balkans. / argumentum.al