Balkan Leaders Reaffirm Pledge for ‘Mini Schengen’ in Third Summit

The third summit of the Albania, Serbian and Macedonian leaders on the “Mini Schengen” initiative in Tirana ended today at noon. Montenegro’s president also attended the meeting as an observer.

Exit News brings some of the key statements by Rama, Vucic, Zaev and Djukanovic during a press conference at the conclusion of the summit.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama criticized Kosovo’s decision not to attend the summit:

This initiative is not excluding anyone, it is inclusive, open, there are no conditions, is not forced on nobody by no one.

The repeated refusal of the Kosovo authorities to attend this roundtable is incomprehensible and detrimental to Kosovo itself.

We are here to build a bridge between the past and the future; a past that divides us, and of a future that unites us.

Through this initiative we are aiming at opining all borders; there is no condition and no exclusion clause for any of the agreements we agree to. What does Kosovo gain by not coming, while no one says this should not be done with Kosovo, on the contrary?!

Kosovo needs no isolation, no need for self-exclusion.

If Kosovo today needs respect, integration, economic development, this is the way.

We must join forces to accelerate the integration process and to create standards that respond to the EU, freedom of movement for people, goods, capital and services.

Serbian President Alexandar Vucic emphasized some of today’s decisions:

The discussions we had were aimed at intensifying our agreements.

Our emergency units will cooperate more closely in the future, so that when a tragedy ever strikes one of our countries, the same units will be in place at the same time.

We will continue to build not only our own inspection units, 24 hour customs services, more facilities at the border crossings. Trucks should not stay more than 6 hours at the border, so we will try to implement the agreement of authorized operators. This will reduce operating costs and improve our people’s standards.

We will strive to create a common labor market, which means a higher level of attraction for foreign investors. It will be possible for them to simply apply for and obtain permanent work permits in Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

One proposal would be to align many regulations in order to make a single market.

Northern Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev spoke about the customs union:

In early February we might sign in Belgrade the Protocol on Cooperation and Rapid Intervention for Disasters.

The border checkpoints will be turned into a stopover in the future, but afterwards they will not exist anymore. In February, we will sign an agreement for free movement, using only ID cards, within the Balkan Schengen, and we will accelerate intra-market procedures, only one procedure for issuing work visas.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said Balkan countries continue to aim at EU integration:

We want to be members of the EU and have worked hard on it, so we are not ready to change the strategic direction now.

The third “Mini Schengen” summit in Albania was met with two days of protests against the initiative itself, Vucic’s presence in Tirana, and Rama’s alleged close ties with the Serbian government at the expense of Kosovo’s statehood. Kosovo refused to attend the summit.

The fourth meeting of the initiative will be held in Belgrade, Serbia, in February 2020.