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"Mini Schengen" — Western Balkans' Embrace of the Market

November 20, 2019 in Economics

By Tanja Porčnik

Tanja Porčnik

French President Emmanuel Macron’s spearheaded opposition to block European Union accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia during the European Council’s recent meeting in October. By doing so, he is not only dangerously and severely undermining the credibility of the EU accession process. He is also indicating to the non-EU countries in the Western Balkans and elsewhere that their future lies solely in their hands, as that they cannot rely on the European Union to support them in their efforts to strengthen institutions, reform public policies and further liberalize economies.

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As shocking this political development has been for many, the Western Balkans should not waste any sleep over what outgoing European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker sees as a “major historic mistake”. The EU Council President Donald Tusk also feels “really embarrassed” by what happened. The Western Balkan countries already have plans for bold and deep institutional reforms that will not only liberalize and deliver a boost to their economies, but will also, most importantly, significantly improve the level of freedom enjoyed by the people in the region. In this context, six non-EU Western Balkan countries have been in talks since July 2018 to create a single market of 20 million people, with the aim to increase freedom of movement and freedom to trade internationally. The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which has so far invested 10 billion euros in the region, has publicly endorsed the creation of a regional economic area in the Western Balkans.

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Last month, three Western Balkan countries, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia announced that they will be moving ahead with a so-called “mini Schengen,” and keep the door open for three remaining Western Balkan countries, which have been hesitant to join, primarily due to unresolved political issues. At a time when …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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