Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has called on the EU to push Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro to join the Open Balkan initiative while the prospect of the Western Balkans’ integration into the EU has been “perhaps […] temporarily shelved”.
In an op-ed for Politico, titled “Albania is getting ready for the EU, no matter what”, Rama expands on his idea that “if the Western Balkans cannot come to the EU, perhaps the EU can come to us.”
He writes that the EU’s promises for enlargement, which began in 2003, are now less reliable for the Western Balkans, as the EU faces internal issues.
Considering that these issues are expected to continue in the near future, Rama suggests that the EU foster regional cooperation in and with the Western Balkans instead.
According to Rama, there are several steps that could yield results “without raising the indignation” of those EU member states that oppose enlargement. These include projects to integrate the region into the EU’s digital policies, joint higher education programs, an emergency plan, and the implementation of the four European freedoms—the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people.
The Open Balkan Initiative, launched by Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia, focuses precisely on this latter, he wrote.
“This idea moves forward on the agenda that has been repeated since Thessaloniki and that forms the tangible shapes of the Berlin Process, announced in 2014. We continue to support and participate in both processes, but we do not want to wait until others say that they are ready,” Rama stated.
The Albanian leader framed Open Balkan as an initiative that supports the Berlin Process, despite the fact that all Western Balkan countries have agreed to participate in this latter, while half of the region refuses to join the Open Balkan Initiative.
“Support for this initiative would show that the EU is serious about the Berlin Process itself,” he wrote.
In his op-ed, Rama failed to mention the Common Regional Market, an initiative under the Berlin Process, signed by all WB6 countries. A robust action plan attached to the CRM foresees projects to improve the region’s economy, infrastructure, environment, security, with potential investments of up to 29 million euros.
The plan include also the implementation of the four European freedoms hoped for under the controversial Open Balkan initiative.
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