The European Commission has urged the foreign ministers of the Western Balkan 6, aka Berlin Process, to strengthen cooperation and implement fundamental reforms. Kosovo and Albania have argued that for regional cooperation to happen, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) should recognize Kosovo.
In an online meeting on Monday between the EU and WB6 foreign ministers, Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi stressed that regional cooperation in the WB6 is “not an alternative to EU integration but a fundamental part of the process leading to it.”
The EU’s Economic and Investment Plan, which foresees €9 billion in grant support for the region to boost sustainable economic development, requires reforms and regional cooperation.
“Structural economic reforms, strengthening the rule of law and democratic principles, tackling corruption, improving public administration reforms which are essential to ensuring long-term security and stability in the region,” Varhelyi stressed.
The WB6 leaders will meet on Tuesday to discuss regional cooperation, and adopt an action plan of a Common Regional Market.
Varhelyi explained that the plan will give a boost to free movement of people in the region.
This aspect is also one of the objectives of the so-called mini Schengen initiative backed by governments of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia. It aims at the free movement of people, goods, services and capital in the six Western Balkans countries.
However, Kosovo’s foreign minister Meliza Haradinaj’s statements in today’s meeting did not seem to support Kosovo’s unconditional participation in such regional initiatives. She said that before asking for a regional market, Serbia should implement the 33 agreements signed with Kosovo during the Brussels dialogue, including the establishment of common crossing points, recognition of documents and car plates, removal of non-tariff barriers.
No regional cooperation is possible without BiH and Serbia recognizing Kosovo, she stressed, as while Serbia refuses to disclose the fate of thousands of Albanians missing since the 1998-1999 war.
Albania’s acting foreign minister Gent Cakaj supported Haradinaj by asking BiH and Serbia to recognize Kosovo as the only way for long-standing regional cooperation. Cakaj also asked the EU to approve the visa liberalization for Kosovo, the only WB6 country to be still isolated.