Open Balkans Shows No Sign of Delivering Promised Freedoms

The Open Balkans initiative members held another meeting last week in Ohrid, North Macedonia.

Representatives of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia signed another set of documents - an agreement on recognition of diplomas and three memoranda of understanding on various topics.

The batch of documents, together with those signed in July and December last year, allegedly aim to integrate the region economically, looking up to the economic integration model of the European Union, while the countries wait to become EU members themselves.

Yet Open Balkans is still far from constituting a proper international organization formally, or a customs union substantively, let alone something resembling a Balkan EU.

Despite all the proclamations about economic integration and the formation of a single market, not one step has been made yet in that direction.

One general problem is that it remains unclear what the initiative wants to achieve, and how it intends to do so.

On the one hand, public attention has so far focused on political statements. Little analysis has been done, if any at all, of the actual terms of the signed documents.

This is not surprising, given that the initiative has a chronic transparency problem. Not only has the public been excluded from the debate about the content of prospective agreements and their drafts, but it is very hard to access the full texts of the documents, even after their signing.

epa10001670 (L-R) President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, North Macedonia's Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, and Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic attend the Open Balkan Summit in Ohrid, North Macedonia, 08 June 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI


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