Thursday, May 23, 2024


When news broke in October of this year that North Macedonia, Albania and Serbia had agreed to advance regional co-operation through the formation of the so-called “Mini-Schengen”, public opinion turned on debate in almost all Western Balkan countries about the issue “what’s behind this plan”.

Author: Xhelal Neziri

From the extreme parties in Serbia, this initiative was considered a further step by Edi Rama for the creation of a “Greater Albania”. More precisely, it was stated by the leader of the radical party, Dveri, Bosko Obradovic. Meanwhile, another party named “New Serbia (Nova Serbia)” has called the initiative “a big fraud of Aleksandar Vucic.” “That Mini Schengen that Vucic signed with Albanians and Macedonians is nothing more than a precursor to the recognition of Kosovo’s independence,” said party leader, Velimir Ilic.    

On the other hand, in Albania and Kosovo, there were rumors against this project, calling it a “plan for the creation of a Greater Serbia”. Halil Matoshi, an adviser of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, has strongly opposed Prime Minister Edi Rama’s involvement in this initiative. On his Facebook profile, he wrote: “The Mini Schengen – Greater Serbia! Thanks to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama!? This map of Greater Serbia for the Mini Schengen, proves its galloping ignorance about Serbian historical ideas and intentions for dominating the Western Balkans, namely the idea of returning Kosovo on February 16, 2008! “. Kosovo’s  President Hashim Thaci said that he did not attend on the second meeting in Ohrid because Kosovo was bypassed in the first meeting in Novi Sad. He said” : “We do not want to replace our Euro-Atlantic perspective with any kind of regional initiative,” Even in Albania and part of the Albanian public in North Macedonia, Rama was criticized for excluding Kosovo from this process.

Schengen is a city in Luxembourg where the borders of France and Germany meet. The border there is invisible, so it is difficult to see whether you were crossing into the German or French territory. Only a few white dashed lines indicate where the territory of Luxembourg is, where Germany is and where is the territory of France. In this beautiful city is signed, the Schengen Agreement on June 14, 1985, a tractate that has led most European countries to abolish their state borders and build a Europe without borders known as the “Schengen Area”. Initially only five EU countries were signed, but today it is one of the largest areas in the world to end border control between member states. The concept of free movement between European countries is very old and can be found in the Middle Ages. Whereas, in modern times this idea was revived since Europe suffered badly from World War II. In this regard, concrete action only took place during the 1980s, as Europe was stuck in a perpetual debate between two opposing groups: one that supported the idea of a free Europe without control of internal borders between countries, and the other that was absolutely against it.


It seems that the same division is in the Balkans. Unfortunately, in this initiative, no city was found in a border triangle that would baptize this project. What is happening now to this regional idea in the Western Balkans is uploading it with domestic policy issues, overwhelmed with ideological or party hostility.

If we leave aside these animosities for the purposes of daily politics, this initiative turns out to be good as it warns the Europeanization of the Balkans as a problematic region. In the same way that France and Germany promoted the signing of the Schengen Tractate, this is done today by North Macedonia, Albania and Serbia. Or, just as the European Union was created when the Traktatin e Romës Tractate of Rome in 1957 created the European Economic Union, which initially included France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands and West Germany. Less than two decades after World War II, France and Germany as previous enemies, began to work together for the common good. The result is evident – today we have a developed EU, which in the past 60 years has had no war within its territory. The Balkans should not invent any other formula to overcome hostilities, but simply need to copy the process of reconciling the countries that today constitute the EU, which have bloody wars with millions of victims in their history.

Falling boundaries can never have any significant negative effects, but on the contrary. The free movement of people, goods, capital, knowledge and so on can bring about a more pronounced development in this region. On the contrary, isolation at state borders and the continued incitement of new animosities can only repeat conflicts or bloody wars in the Balkans. If this initiative succeeds in reaching and embracing all six countries of the Western Balkans, then it would be a major step towards pacifying this region troubled by centuries-old hostilities. I do not believe that this project will be a substitute for the European perspective of the aspirant countries. On the contrary, it will complement the EU integration process and give a tremendous boost to the integration of the six Western Balkan countries into the European Union. I say this because if the Balkans becomes a safe and democratic region with a population of 18 million, it will be much easier to become part of the EU. In fact, the EU enlargement interest will be the same in both Brussels and the Balkans, not as now where the six countries in the region are seen as the source of hostility, organized crime and terrorism in Europe.

Certainly, Kosovo is an independent state in the Western Balkans. Therefore, it is one of the six countries that constitutes this region, and as such can be a source of stability and peace but also of new conflicts. This, of course, depends not only on Kosovo, but also on other countries, primarily Serbia. However, I do not think that the lack of invitation for Kosovo should be seen as not being included in the process. The European Economic Union was formed by only six states that in 1993 became a 12-nation European Union, and today it has 28 member states. The Mini-Schengen cannot be complete and sustainable without the involvement of Kosovo, but also of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Rama, Zaev and Vucic may be criticized for many mistakes in governing their countries, but this initiative is good and should be publicly stated. If we aspire to EU integration we must behave like EU states. I think the criticisms of this project derive from the struggle of political parties within the Western Balkan states. In this clash between parties, they often tend to undermine regional processes that are constructive.

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