From: Exit Staff
Montenegro Criticises Open Balkan Initiative

Montenegro’s Ministry of European Affairs has levied criticism at the Open Balkan regional initiative, stating it relies on the good relations of charismatic leaders and is not transparent.

Open Balkan comprises Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia, but Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have refused to join over concerns it is an undesirable substitute and distraction from EU integration. Montenegro has been somewhat on the fence, having attended summits in the past.

“The project does not have a roadmap, strategy, institutional framework, nor an agreement that guarantees an equal relationship and position of the countries participating in it… It relies on the relationships of charismatic leaders, and the procedure between high-level summits is not transparent enough”, as said in the analysis.

The initiative foresees several agreements between the countries, including those facilitating free movement, trade, education, business, infrastructure, and even health.

Sarajevo and Podgorica have both said they see no particular benefit from the initiative, as the facilitation of travel and trade is already covered by the broader CEFTA trade agreement between countries in Southeast Europe, while Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, has said it would prefer an improved version of the CEFTA agreement.

At the Open Balkans summit in Ohrid, North Macedonia, on 8 June, Montenegro’s outgoing Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said he viewed the initiative positively but would have to weigh all the benefits first.

But on 24 November, he had dialled back his enthusiasm.

“We will see what happens in the future. I think there is a lot of political manipulation on this topic between political parties,” said Abazovic.