Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Sunday that in circumstances when the EU does not have a clear strategy for the Western Balkans, the regional initiative called Open Balkans is a great opportunity for its signatories to create a different and better future for themselves.
Writing in the Politika newspaper about the regional cooperation project covering Serbia, Macedonia and Albania, Vučić said it was the first time that something good for the entire region had been launched in the Balkans, stressing that the agreements signed in Skopje earlier this week were historic and that their results would also be historic.
Serbia, Macedonia and Albania signed the agreements on Thursday to facilitate trade in the region, create a single labor market and provide mutual assistance in emergency situations. The initiative, previously dubbed mini-Schengen, was officially renamed Open Balkans.
Vučić and the prime ministers of Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama respectively, signed three documents: a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in facilitating imports, exports and movement of goods in the Western Balkans, a memorandum of understanding and cooperation concerning free access to the labor market, and a cooperation agreement on disaster protection.
“Europe, often torn by internal differences, wants us so long as we do not cause any trouble,” Vučić said, noting that Brussels does not have “a completely clear strategy towards the Western Balkans and other European territories that do not belong to the Union.”
He recalled that the founders of the EU were also aware that they could overcome the difficult past only if they started establishing ties through the economy, and that they eventually succeeded despite opposition from all quarters.
“Serbs, Albanians and Macedonians are no less smart or hardworking than the French, Germans, Italians and others who embarked on building the EU through the Coal and Steel Community,” Vučić wrote.
He pointed out that the members of this regional initiative want to enter the European Union, but that a Balkans free of economic barriers is crucial.