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Kosovo Declines Invitation To Third Meeting On ‘Balkan Mini Schengen’

Kosovo Declines Invitation To Third Meeting On ‘Balkan Mini Schengen’
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (left), Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (center), and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev met to discuss a plan to set up a free trade zone. (RFERL)

President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo has refused to participate in the third meeting in Durres, Albania of the so-called “mini Schengen initiative” spearheaded by leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia.

Thaçi wrote on Facebook today that he had to refuse Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama’s invitation for the same reasons he had done so twice before.

The “mini Schengen initiative” was launched in October, following Albania and North Macedonia’s failure to start EU accession talks.

Kosovo politicians have questioned the benefits of such an initiative under current circumstances. The initiative also created frictions between the Albanian government and leaders in Kosovo, who claimed Rama did not consult with Kosovo before launching the initiative.

In their second meeting in November, Rama, Vučić and Zaev signed a 9-point joint statement in Ohrid, NM, which explained that achieving the objectives of this initiative – freer flow of goods, people, services and capital – will be a step toward the EU integration of the region.

Thaçi stated today that Kosovo could not participate in a regional initiative started by Serbia, whilst the latter is actively engaged in undermining his country’s statehood.

“Serbia has committed genocide against the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo and today not only it denies the crimes committed, but continues to deny the existence of our state.”

Earlier this month, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sparked outrage in Kosovo when he described the 1999 Reçak massacre as “fabricated”.

The Reçak massacre took place in the homonymous village of Kosovo in 1999, when Serbian forces killed 45 ethnic Albanian civilians. The massacre was one of the factors that led to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign which ended the bloody two-year war between Kosovo and Serbia.

Thaçi added that such regional initiatives are “meaningless” as long as Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina refuse to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

“There can’t be progress in regional cooperation as long as there won’t be mutual recognition between these countries,” Thaçi argued.

The third meeting will take place this weekend, December 21, in Albania, while the two previous ones took place in Serbia and North Macedonia.

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