April 13. 2024. 5:23

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In Italy, three Western Balkan leaders praise ‘Open Balkan’ initiative

The leaders of Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia jointly visited an international wine fair in Italy on Sunday, where they discussed further measures to advance the so-called Open Balkan initiative, and urged other countries in the region to join.

The somewhat controversial initiative, previously referred to as ‘Mini-Schengen’ in reference to the EU’s passport-free area, foresees the easy movement of people and goods throughout member countries.

However, only three of the six Western Balkan countries have embraced it, while Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro have so far refused to join.

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dmitar Kovačevski, speaking after touring the Vinitaly 2023 wine fair in Verona together with the Albanian PM Edi Rama and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, said the Open Balkan was “yielding results”.

Inviting the other three countries to join, he added: “This joint appearance at the fair proves that this is not a political but an economic initiative. It is an authentic initiative based on goodwill and good neighbourly relations.”

Speaking more concretely, Serbia’s Vučić said the three countries that spearhead the initiative should soon finalise the process of facilitating work permits.

“I expect this process of ensuring work permits to be completed soon, and this should be the basis of our economic cooperation.”

The three leaders, Vučić said, also discussed a “number of important issues so we can be prepared before the start of the summer season.”

“We talked about food safety, harmonising electronic cards, and accepting new ID cards, and all three of us agreed that we’ll be able to make progress in the coming months.”

(Zoran Radosavljević | EURACTIV.com)