Frustrated with a lack of progress in EU accession talks and EU constantly stalling, the heads of three Balkan states – Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia – Aleksandar Vucic, Edi Rama and Zoran Zaev respectively are going ahead with the Mini Schengen initiative to launch their own border-free travel and business zone, the renowned British daily, the Financial Times writes.
The daily goes on to say that the leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia have hit out at Brussels over the slow pace of EU enlargement, vowing to press ahead with their own border-free travel and business zone as they wait for the bloc to admit them.
“We know there’s an increase in fatigue in the EU,” Alexander Vucic, Serbia’s president, said in an interview adding: “We need to see what we can do for ourselves instead, what we can do for our people, how we can expand our markets.”
Zoran Zaev, prime minister of North Macedonia, expressed frustration that “the EU does not deliver” on its promises, adding: “We need to accelerate practical benefits to our citizens”, the FT reports.
Edi Rama, newly re-elected premier of Albania, compared working with Brussels to Samuel Beckett’s existentialist play ‘Waiting for Godot’, in which two men engage in a series of often absurd conversations as they anticipate the arrival of someone who never comes.
The Balkan “mini-Schengen” travel and business zone modelled on the EU free-travel arrangement will be officially unveiled on Thursday. It will include a gradual easing of travel restrictions, faster “green lanes” at borders, reduced waiting times for freight and easier access to work permits. It is hoped the zone, which Vucic said should come into being before the end of the year, will eventually include Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while it also remains open to disputed status Kosovo – the Financial Times writes.
The countries have significant progress to make before the EU accepts them, such as electoral, judicial and economic reforms, but they also feel the official path has become too cumbersome. Vucic came to power on a pro-EU platform but like his colleagues has come to view the bloc with growing frustration. The aim of the mini-Schengen zone was to change the region’s narrative, both internally, to ease ethnic tensions, and externally, to appeal for EU membership and more investment, Vucic said, as reported by the Financial Times.
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