Three Balkan countries agree mini-Schengen deal

Photo: EPA Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (C), Albanian PM Edi Rama (L) and North Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev (R), Novi Sad, Serbia, 10 October.

Leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia signed a so-called “mini-Schengen” deal on Thursday, which envisages free movement of people, goods, capital, and services between the three Western Balkan countries, news wires reported.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told a joint press conference in the northern city of Novi Sad that by 2021 he expected people from all three countries to be able to cross their borders using only their Ids. The PM of Albania Edi Rama stressed that the agreement was one of the rare occasions when Balkan leaders had gathered without what he called “EU mentors”. The PM of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev said he expected the rest of the six Western Balkan states, the WB6, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, to join the initiative.

Of the six Western Balkan countries, Serbia and Montenegro are already negotiating EU membership. Albania and North Macedonia are seeking candidate status, while Bosnia and Kosovo are the furthest behind in the process. Diplomatic sources told Reuters on Thursday that France was opposed to launching membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania later this month because the bloc faced too many other challenges.

 

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