German Official Warns Over Open Balkan Initiative

by Cristian Florescu

The Open Balkans initiative between Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia should not duplicate the Berlin Process, according to the Director for the Western Balkans at the German Foreign Ministry, Suzan Shutz.

Open Balkan is an initiative to facilitate the free movement of people and goods through mutual agreements signed by the country’s three leaders. Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro are not members due to issues with Serbia in the case of Kosovo and fears it would influence the EU accession process of the region.

In an interview, Shutz said the initiative must be by the regulations of the EU, and all six regional states should be included.

“We believe that the inclusiveness of all six states is critical. The Open Balkans is so far an initiative that works in three countries. For us, inclusiveness in the process is important, and there should not be a duplication, but we should work hand in hand”, says the German official.

The next meeting of the Berlin Process will take place on 3 November, and at the top of the agenda will be the achievement of the common regional market agreement, which according to the German official, serves to travel with identity cards, to recognize professional diplomas and also academic qualifications among the states of the region.

Shutz, who previously served as the ambassador of Germany in Tirana, asked the Albanian government to make more efforts to avoid the departure of young people by seriously fighting corruption.

Asked about the fiscal amnesty, Shutz says Albania should closely follow the European Union’s advice for this initiative’s design.

The leaders of the three countries have repeatedly asked the EU for more support, particularly regarding energy.

“A difficult winter is approaching. We have seen that there will be help from the EU. Partial help or support to buy the necessary energy will be significant and excellent for all our countries. It is also a necessity for them to survive the winter,” said Serbian President Aleksander Vucic in September on the situation ahead.

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