Albania and Kosovo present divergent views on regional cooperation at Berlin summit – Exit
The leaders of Albania and Kosovo presented opposing views at the 8th Berlin Process summit regarding a potential regional common market among the six countries of the Western Balkans.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama pledged to speed up joint attempts with the leaders of Serbia and North Macedonia to advance their Mini Schengen initiative despite refusal of neighboring countries to join.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti of Kosovo insisted that the six WB countries should create a regional market that would bring their economies closer to the European Union. He called on the EU to consider creating a similar economic zone what the union has with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which are not members of the EU.
In his speech at Monday’s summit, Rama criticized Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) who have so far refused to join the Mini Schengen initiative launched by Rama, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
“We are not going to seek consensus at all [costs]. We are going to strive for full inclusion in the process with anyone who likes to speed up the process. With Serbia and North Macedonia, I want to be very clear, we have not decided to separate, we have not decided to divide anyone; we just decided to push [the process] as much as we can by repeating all the time that everyone is welcome, but by saying all the time that we are not going to wait [for] anyone ”, Rama declared.
Montenegro and BiH have said they prefer to focus on EU membership, and Kosovo has called for a regional market initiative to be approved by the six Western Balkan countries as part of the Berlin process. .
The six countries agreed to establish the Common Regional Market (CRM) last year as part of the Berlin process. The CRM is a broader initiative but it includes the objectives of the Mini Schengen – the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
Rama praised the Berlin process and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi for “saving face of the European Union in the Balkans”. He called on the Western Balkan countries to “take more ownership” of the process now that the European Commission has pledged € 29 billion in funds and loans for the region.
Kurti reiterated his proposal for a different kind of regional market.
“I proposed that we upgrade CEFTA to SEFTA (South East Europe Free Trade Agreement) on the basis of the EFTA-EEA model which would uplift the whole region and overcome the current obstacles”, declared, while calling on the European Commission to seriously consider the proposal.
Its three initiators recently decided to rename the Mini Schengen but its future remains uncertain.