Open Balkan

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Open Balkan
  • Albanian:Ballkani i Hapur
    Macedonian:Отворен Балкан
    Otvoren Balkan
    Serbian:Отворени Балкан
    Otvoreni Balkan
Open Balkan map.png
  Member states
  Potential member states
Administrative centers
Official languages
Membership
Establishment29 July 2021
Area
• Total
131.935 km2 (50.940 sq mi)
Population
• 2020 estimate
11,786,310
GDP (PPP)estimate
• Per capita
$16.658
GDP (nominal)2020 estimate
• Total
$97.79 billion
Currency
Time zoneUTC+01:00

The Open Balkan (Albanian: Ballkani i Hapur; Macedonian: Отворен Балкан, romanizedOtvoren Balkan; Serbian: Отворени Балкан, romanizedOtvoreni Balkan) is an economic and political zone of three member states in the Balkans, including Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. The zone has a total area of 131,935 km2 (50,940 sq mi) and an estimated total population of almost 12 million. The official languages are Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian. Its administrative centres are the cities of Belgrade, Skopje and Tirana. With the establishment of the zone, all three member states aim to increase trade and co-operation as well as improve bilateral relations.

History[edit]

The idea of the Open Balkan (formerly known as Mini-Schengen Area) came in the early 1990s.[citation needed] It was first mentioned as an economic area between these countries of the Balkan peninsula. The plans were eventually abandoned due to the Yugoslav Wars.[citation needed] The first signs of the Open Balkan emerged in 2018 as a way to improve political relations.[citation needed] The idea of the area was brought by Edi Rama in Berlin when he discussed it with the interested nations. Rama took the idea of the former Prime Minister of Albania Fatos Nano.[1]

The plans for the area were declared on 10 October 2019 in Novi Sad.[2] Two meetings were held, one in Ohrid on 11 November 2019, and the other on 12 December 2019 in Durrës. These countries declared to form a unified market of 12 million people by the end of 2020. On 11 November 2019, at the 2019 Ohrid summit, the President of Serbia, the Prime Ministers of Albania and North Macedonia agreed to create an economic zone, which would further improve political and economic relations and strengthen cultural ties between the nations.[2]

The first meeting was due to be held in January or February 2020 in Belgrade. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was postponed and a potential date for new meeting in Belgrade was tentatively scheduled for spring or summer 2020.

Vučić, Zaev and Rama on the Economic Forum for Regional Cooperation

The former name referred to the Schengen Area, a common travel area that includes 26 European countries, but not the aforementioned Balkan countries.

Purpose[edit]

The Open Balkan's intentions are to provide greater opportunities for trade, student exchanges, and encourage the EU integration in the member states, inter alia.[2] Citizens of member states will need only an ID card to visit other member states, saving time at border crossings.[3] This economic zone prepares the countries to become members of the European Union.[2][4]

Signing of an agreement on mutual cooperation between Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania

In this union, goods and capital between these countries would flow quicker and more than 30 million hours would be saved crossing the borders of these three countries every year. The estimate of the World Bank projects save of $3.2 billion, of which, according to the President Vučić, Serbia would save at least $1.5 billion.[citation needed]

On 29 July 2021, Vučić, Rama and Zaev participated in the forum for regional economic cooperation in Skopje, where they signed agreements on the movement of goods, access to the labor market and cooperation in protection against disasters.[5] It has been agreed mutual acceptance of diplomas and job qualifications, all making work forces more flexible and available and so attracting more investment. As part of the initiative, a regional economic forum attended by some 350 companies, mostly coming from these three countries but also from the wider region, was also held.[6]

Frustrated with delays in obtaining EU membership for their countries, the three Balkan leaders signed agreements to open their national borders to each other's citizens and products on 1 January 2023, without restrictions.[7]

Member states[edit]

The Open Balkan currently comprises three member states, including Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia.

State Capital Accession Population (2020)[8] Area Population density Urban areas Languages
 Albania Tirana Founder 2,845,955 28,748 km2
(11,100 sq mi)
99/km2
(260/sq mi)
Durrës, Elbasan, Vlorë, Shkodër Albanian
 North Macedonia Skopje Founder 2,068,808 25,713 km2
(9,928 sq mi)
80/km2
(210/sq mi)
Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo Macedonian
 Serbia Belgrade Founder 6,871,547 77,474 km2
(29,913 sq mi)
89/km2
(230/sq mi)
Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac, Subotica Serbian

Potential members states[edit]

Three potential members are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo.[a]

On 4 September 2020, Kosovo agreed to join the Mini-Schengen Area as part of the Kosovo and Serbia economic normalization agreements,[9] but so far has not signed any agreement with three founding countries, even opposing the whole initiative.[10][11][12][13]

President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović said that Montenegro is committed to regional initiatives and will participate in Open Balkan talks in the coming period and contribute to the Western Balkans region achieving its European integration in the near future. "This means that we strongly believe that regional initiatives are a great opportunity to build confidence and, on that basis, to achieve co-operation that will contribute to the development of the region as a whole." He added that Montenegro is ready to host some of the future meetings. "Each of our countries wants to be part of the EU, but every one wants to Europeanise their society and to ensure that people in our region are part of European values. This is the primary responsibility of all our governments. All the initiatives are far more meaningful when we know that they lead to the achievement of standards that will pave the way for EU membership."[14] But Montenegro is focused more on joining the EU.[15]

A representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina said during the Ohrid summit that Bosnia and Herzegovina is likewise currently focused on joining the European Union.[citation needed]

Economy[edit]

In 2020, the GDP of these countries combined would be $80.027 billion, GDP PPP would be $207.326 billion. In 2020, GDP per capita would be $6,256, GDP PPP per capita would be $16,658. Albania and North Macedonia would have higher GDP per capita and GDP PPP per capita, and Serbia's GDP/GDP PPP per capita would somewhat decrease. The current currencies are the Albanian lek, the Macedonian denar and the Serbian dinar. The official languages are Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian. The capital cities are Belgrade, Skopje, and Tirana. Some other major cities are Bitola, Čačak, Durrës, Elbasan, Korçë, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Kruševac, Kumanovo, Leskovac, Niš, Novi Sad, Pančevo, Prilep, Subotica, Shkodër, Vlorë and Zrenjanin.

Statistics[edit]

Albania North Macedonia Serbia
Form of government Parliamentary republic
Current heads of state
and government
President Ilir Meta President Stevo Pendarovski President Aleksandar Vučić
Prime Minister Edi Rama Prime Minister Zoran Zaev Prime Minister Ana Brnabić
Official languages Albanian Macedonian Serbian
Albanian
GDP (nominal) $14.8 billion $12.267 billion $52.96 billion
GDP (nominal) per capita $5,215 $5,888 $7,666
GDP (PPP) $39.211 billion $35.265 billion $132.85 billion
GDP (PPP) per capita $16,926 $17,046 $19,230
Real GDP growth rate (2020) −5.0% −0.7% −0.9%
Currency Lek Denar Dinar

Further cooperation[edit]

On August 2, 2021, the directors of the post offices of Serbia and North Macedonia, Zoran Đorđević and Jani Makraduli signed in Belgrade a Protocol for business cooperation.[16]

On August 3, 2021, by an order of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, four helicopters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Serbia), have been sent to help colleagues from Ministry of Internal Affairs (North Macedonia) for firefighting in North Macedonia.[17][18]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognised as an independent state by 97 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 112 UN member states have recognised Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rama i përgjigjet Vuçiçit, retrieved 2021-08-14
  2. ^ a b c d Simić, Julija (11 October 2019). "Three countries agree mini Schengen in the Balkans". Euractiv. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  3. ^ "Mini-Schengen: what does this accord mean for the EU?". www.etiasvisa.com. Retrieved 2021-06-03.
  4. ^ Holroyd, Matthew (2019-11-11). "Western Balkan leaders plot their own 'mini-Schengen' zone". euronews. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  5. ^ "Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania Push Forward On 'Open Balkans' Initiative". www.rferl.org. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  6. ^ "Balkan 'Mini-Schengen' Leaders Eye Open Borders by 2023". Balkan Insight. 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  7. ^ "Balkan leaders agree to open borders between nations in 2023". AP NEWS. 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  8. ^ Citations regarding the populations of the Open Balkan member states:
  9. ^ "Šta piše u sporazumu Kosova i Srbije?". Radio Slobodna Evropa (in Serbo-Croatian).
  10. ^ "Gërvalla in Slovenia: EU must stop 'mini-Schengen'". 21 media. 23 July 2021.
  11. ^ "PM Rama Criticises Kosovo Premier for Not Participating in Balkans Mini-Schengen". albanian daily news.
  12. ^ "Kosovo government does not support Open Balkans initiative". Radio Slobodna Evropa (in Macedonian).
  13. ^ "Kosovo considers the "Open Balkan" initiative as very dangerous". Alsat (in Macedonian). 30 July 2021.
  14. ^ ""Mini-Schengen" initiative remains open to the region, next meeting in Belgrade". European Western Balkans. 2019-12-21. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  15. ^ "Montenegro Rejects Balkan 'Mini Schengen' Proposal". Balkan Insight. 2019-11-12. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  16. ^ "Post of Serbia - Serbian and Northern Macedonian posts sign Protocol on business cooperation".
  17. ^ "Serbia sends police choppers to help North Macedonia's firefighters". N1 (in Serbian). 2021-08-03. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  18. ^ "Serbian helicopter units are putting out fires in North Macedonia, photos from scene". Telegraf.rs (in Serbian). Retrieved 2021-08-11.