European Western Balkans

Thaçi refuses to attend Western Balkans Summit in Tirana

Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev at the Mini-Schengen meeting; Photo: Tanjug/Tanja Valić

BELGRADE – Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi formally rejected an invitation by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama to participate in the Western Balkan Summit in Tirana, writes Danas daily.

Thaçi explained that he was not going to attend the Summit because Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina do not recognize Kosovo as a state. He reminded that Kosovo still faces serious obstacles in its efforts to consolidate statehood.

“Unfortunately, the main obstacle comes from Serbia, which is constantly undermining our efforts”, wrote the President of Kosovo on Facebook.

He also added that the mini-Schengen regional initiative is an experiment that is “a result of the EU’s inability to open the door to membership of the Western Balkan countries.”

Danas reminded that, according to an official announcement, the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić will attend the upcoming summit in Albania, which will be the third round of talks on the so-called mini-Schengen. The Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev will also attend the summit, while the participation of representatives of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina has not been confirmed.

Montenegro might join mini-Shengen talks

According to unofficial information, reports Danas, there is a possibility the President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović, who had not attended previous mini-Shengen meetings, will join Vučić, Zaev, and Rama.

As for the participation of BiH officials, an official in Sarajevo unofficial told Danas that “there is still no information on whether anyone will participate.”

“The invitation has come to the chairman of the Council of Ministers, but the current one is leaving and a new one has not taken office”, it was explained for Danas from Sarajevo.

The Editor-in-Chief of the European Western Balkans portal Nemanja Todorović Štiplija told Danas that he does not see any reason why Thaçi made a negative statement about the mini-Schengen initiative and the Tirana Summit because “it would be Kosovo who would benefit most from joining this regional initiative.”

“If Kosovo joined mini-Shengen, this would put the problem of tariffs ad acta, since it would introduce a common economic space”, noted Štiplija, adding that “the problem of freedom of movement for the citizens of Kosovo would be solved and visas between Kosovo and BiH abolished and in this way, so they would travel with an ID card only. Therefore, Thaçi’s rhetoric is baffling”, assessed Štiplija.

The Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev said today that he supports every way in which the Balkans can cooperate, not always waiting for someone from the EU to come together and then show the result.

“This initiative is beneficial not only for the countries involved but for the whole Western Balkans”, assessed Zaev in an interview.

However, the mini-Schengen initiative has not yet come to life, noted diplomatic sources for Danas. As they explain, “arrangements have yet to be operationalized and implemented.”

At the previous two meetings dedicated to mini-Schengen held in Novi Sad and Ohrid, an action plan which envisages “continuous work at the mutual borders to increase permeability, with the agreed border crossing only with an ID card” was adopted. The initiative ultimately strives to include “recognizing all documents, including documents from food agencies, college degrees, and the like”, writes Danas daily

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