Leaders of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia met in Tirana on Tuesday to discuss and agree on furthering their Open Balkan initiative to promote political and economic ties.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama hosted the two-day meeting in the Albanian capital with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
Their accompanying ministers signed agreements on labour market, electronic identification, agro-veterinary cooperation, and lifting non-tariff barriers for businesses from which “tens of thousands of people will profit directly very soon,” according to Rama.
The Open Balkan summit is part of the Berlin Process cooperation initiated by Germany and France to promote its regional development.
The three western Balkan countries are at different stages on the EU membership path.
While Serbia has launched full membership negotiations, Albania and North Macedonia have both fulfilled the criteria for beginning membership negotiations, but EU member Bulgaria opposes North Macedonia’s membership, citing a bilateral dispute over history and national identity.
Since the two countries’ bids are linked and launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all 27 EU nations, the veto has also prevented Albania from moving forward.
“When the EU fails to invite us we are obliged to launch constant initiatives to Europeanise our region and bring a better life for our citizens,” said Zaev.
Three other western Balkan countries — Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro — have not joined the Open Balkan initiative.
The next summit will be in Skopje, North Macedonia, in February next year.