Vučić, Rama, Zaev to Create a Free Economic Zone

Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia will establish a free economic zone between them. An agreement is due to be signed on 9/10 October in a conference in Novi Sad, Serbia, according to President Aleksandar Vučić.

Vučić told reporters last week during the UN General Assembly in New York that he had discussed and agreed in meetings with the Albanian PM Edi Rama and North Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev to sign an agreement on a “mini-Schengen” area between the three countries, which will be open for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo to join later.

Vučić said the Novi Sad conference in October will focus on how to strengthen economic and market ties in the area. The planned free economic zone would include freer flow of goods, people and services between the three countries.

The Serbian prime minister first announced his idea in February 2017, when he presented the Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern a paper proposing the establishment of a free trade market and a customs union in the Western Balkan region. He told the chancellor the prime ministers of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina had agreed with the document.

Back in 2017, Vučić summarized the project as “old Yugoslavia, plus Albania”.

Prime Minister Edi Rama and his office did not mention his meeting in New York with Serbia’s President Alexander Vučić, although several other meetings where reported in Rama’s social media accounts.

Rama faced criticism at home during this year for supporting another idea of Vučić for Kosovo and Serbia to exchange territories in order to reach a final agreement.

Whilst the latest Vučić idea on a free economic zone between Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia has been reportedly agreed, the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia has completely stalled. Moreover, Kosovo imposed 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods after Serbia’s active engagement to block its membership in international organizations and lobby to withdraw Kosovo’s recognition.

President Vučić assured everyone this week from New York, after he had met with Rama and Zaev, that “intensive talks” were underway with several countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo.

Amidst rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia after the latter succeeded to block Kosovo’s membership in UNESCO and INTERPOL, and was arguably able to secure some suspicious “derecognitions”, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has failed to publicly condemn Serbia’s activity in undermining Kosovo’s statehood.