Vucic in Skopje: No borders between our three countries under Open Balkan regime

vučić rama zaev mini šengen

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said in Skopje on Thursday there would not be borders between North Macedonia, Albania and his country as of January 1, 2013, under the new Open Balkan regime previously known as mini Schengen.

Vucic and prime ministers of Albania and North Macedonia, Edi Rama and Zoran Zaev, took part in the trilateral economic forum.

At the forum’s opening, Zaev said, „a new era of cooperation in the Western Balkans stars today.“

He added that over 300 companies and some hundred representatives of the chambers of commerce and business communities from other Balkans’ countries and states outside the region would participate in the forum.

Ahead of the forum’s opening, Vucic was presented with the thank-you note for anti-coronavirus vaccines Serbia donated to North Macedonia.

Vucic said the so-called ‘mini Schengen showed the past could be left behind, and the eyes could focus on the future. The initiative was renamed the Open Balkan.

He added that those three countries could become „a development force of this part of Europe.“

Vucic said the move was not directed against anyone but aimed „at a sacred goal for people to live better.“

However, the Financial Times said on Wednesday that „the trio hit out at Brussels over the slow pace of EU enlargement.“

FT described the Balkan „‘mini Schengen travel and business zone modelled on the EU free-travel arrangement would include a gradual easing of travel restrictions, faster ‘green lanes’ at borders, reduced waiting times for freight and easier access to work permits.“

The newspaper quoted Zaev as saying that „the final goal is to be a member country of the EU. But until the EU decides . . . we need to find ways to . . . continue the process of Europeanisation.“

FT also cited Rama, who said they were pushing ahead without the other Balkan states „to lead by example and not get stuck in a small caricature of the EU, where for everything you need consensus and everyone can block through veto“.

On Thursday, Vucic said there would always be those against the ‘mini Schengen initiative, „those who only look for a result in the next elections.“

Serbia holds presidential, local and possibly early elections next spring.

Vucic added that the move would not make happy some in the world either because „they don’t have control over it.“

„The opening of the borders is a historical idea. It’s time to take things in our hands and decide on our destiny and future ourselves,“ he added.

He said that after January 1, 2023, „no one will stop you from Belgrade to Tirana.“

Referring to organised crime, Vucic said the three countries would fight against it together.

He also appealed to entrepreneurs to help the initiatives.