European Western Balkans

Montenegro: Ministry of European Affairs published analysis on Open Balkan

Open Balkan Summit in Ohrid, 8 June 2022; Photo: Government of North Macedonia

Montenegrin Ministry for European Affairs prepared an „Analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of Montenegro’s participation in the Open Balkan initiative“. According to Montenegrin media, dissatisfied with criticisms of this initiative in the cabinet of Prime Minister Dritan Abazović, the analysis was removed from the agenda of the Government session at the initiative of the Minister of Justice.

It is believed that this was the „last straw“ and the immediate reason for the resignation of Jovana Marović, Minister of European Affairs and Dritan Abazović’s URA Vice President.

Especially stormy reactions in Montenegro came due to the fact that the analysis was removed from the website of the Government and the Ministry of European Affairs. It still needs to be discovered from whose initiative the analysis was withdrawn.

The analysis is based on the belief that the accession of Montenegro to the European Union is a primary state goal.

„The Open Balkan initiative is set on the ambitious agenda of creating a common regional market modeled on the EU’s single market and to some extent coincides with the existing regional cooperation framework established by the Berlin Process“, states the document, which Europan Western Balkans has seen.

It is emphasized that the project does not have a road map, strategy, institutional framework, or contract that establishes and guarantees an equal relationship and position of the countries participating in it. It is added that the project needs a methodology that would help in measuring success and any supervisory administrative-technical body that would carry out the necessary evaluations and propose measures.

“The sources of information on the implementation of projects are limited, and the text of some agreements is not even available, there is no single website that would provide all the necessary information, so this also points to the problem of transparency of the process”, analysis underlined.

“The sources of information on the implementation of projects are limited, and the text of some agreements is not even available, there is no single website that would provide all the necessary information, so this also points to the problem of transparency of the process”, analysis underlined.

It is recalled that Serbia ratified five agreements. In contrast, Albania and North Macedonia did not ratify a single one, “and it is still too early to discuss any results of the Open Balkans initiative”. And the agreement on cooperation in veterinary, phytosanitary, and food and animal feed safety is the most significant step forward regarding other regional initiatives.

Still, the analysis reminds that only Serbia has ratified acts from the Open Balkans.

“The project rests on the relations of charismatic leaders, and the procedures between high-level summits are not sufficiently transparent. There is an evident imbalance in the size of the economies as well as the foreign trade volume of the countries, where one country has a particular advantage, both in terms of the volume of the economy and foreign trade relations outside the region, which can represent an advantage on the market,” the document states.

The Ministry tried to warn the government that the removal of all borders in the region is a risky move considering the existence of the so-called Balkan route through which various criminal activities are carried out.

“Compared to other regional initiatives, the Open Balkan is an initiative that is openly opposed by one of the region’s six countries. Unlike OB, the participation of all six countries in the CRM, as well as the management process within the Berlin Process, the implementation of EU standards with a clear road map and action plans, measures and indicators of success impose this type of regional cooperation and EU integration as primary, desirable and transparent,” the analysis states.

Because of all this, the MEP recommends that bearing in mind that the Open Balkans is still in the experimental phase, without data on the project’s success, Montenegro should not decide on joining.

The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dritan Abazović, said on Friday that the document is flawed because it does not state how much trade exchange has grown between the three countries that created the Open Balkan, but that any different opinion on this issue is welcome.

Montenegro’s accession to the Open Balkans has gradually divided Montenegrin society. Part of the Montenegrin public claims that the OB is a bad substitute for the EU, that it will distance Montenegro from Brussels and that Vučić will use it to strengthen Serbia’s role in the Balkans.

At the same time, some economists assess, among other things, that the initiative enables a too-liberal trade regime that infringes on Montenegrin laws.

While the pro-Western opposition parties and those that are part of the Government of Montenegro are against the initiative, Prime Minister Dritan Abazović repeated on several occasions that Montenegro should consider joining the Open Balkans. During this year, the Prime Minister attended the Open Balkan summits as an observer on two occasions, in June in Ohrid and Belgrade in September.

The European Parliament also has objections to the Open Balkan. As written in the resolution voted on Thursday, strong reservations should be expressed towards this regional initiative. European institutions are recommended, “to express strong reservations regarding any initiative for regional economic cooperation that does not include all six countries of the Western Balkans and that is not based on EU rules, such as the Open Balkan initiative.”

On the other hand, MEPs welcomed the signing of the agreement within the Berlin process at the beginning of November, representing a step forward toward creating the Common Regional Market (CRM).

Related posts

Demarcation done deal for Darmanović, impossible for Pacolli


Fajon: Bosnia must implement necessary reforms, EU is there to help


GRECO: Albania is ready to start negotiating membership chapters with the EU