Kosovo prime minister Albin Kurti has dismissed the “Mini Schengen” free economic area initiative by Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia as visionless, and called for the region to enter a trade agreement with the European Union instead.
“The initiative launched in [Serbia’s] Novi Sad does not have our approval, hence we received no official invitation to join this meeting. We consider the so-called ‘Mini Schengen’ as a visionless initiative for the region. We have proposed to advance regional cooperation by moving from CEFTA to SEFTA, according to the EFTA-EEA model, from which all Western Balkan countries would benefit simultaneously,” a press release by the Kosovo government stated on Thursday, before the start of the 9th meeting between the leaders of Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia over the Mini Schengen.
The goal of Kurti’s proposal is to go from the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which includes mostly countries located in Southeastern Europe, to SEFTA (Southeast European Free Trade Agreement). In Kurti’s vision, SEFTA should be tailored similarly with the existing trade agreement between the European Union and the 4 non-EU member states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
This, Kurti claims, would truly boost the economies of the region, and prepare them for their future accession to the EU.
On the other hand, the Mini Schengen initiative proposed in 2019 by Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia, Edi Rama of Albania and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia aims at establishing the free movement of goods, peoples, services, and capital within the Western Balkans only.
Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro have refused to join it, calling for the European Union to be involved in such an initiative, given the region’s aspiration and work to join the block.
Rama, Vučić and Zaev have nevertheless vowed to advance their project with or without the other half of the region.