The meeting, held on the shore of Lake Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the second such meeting between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. The initiative is meant to promote a regrouping of the countries in this fragile and divided region, by establishing by 2021 the free movement of goods and people, while the EU decided in October, at the impulse of France, to close the door of accession negotiations for now. with Northern Macedonia and Albania, AFP comments.
"We should not fear our own shadow, but do something for ourselves," the Serbian president told reporters, assuring that "nothing better has been invented in the Balkans for 30 years." "We all want to be part of the EU," but "it depends on them."
While Bosnia and Montenegro sent representatives to Ohrid, Kosovo, a former Serbian province mostly populated by Albanians, who was supposed to be associated with this initiative, did not attend the meeting.
"Kosovo's vision is to join the EU and NATO," not a "regional initiative," which "makes no sense as long as Serbia and Bosnia do not recognize its independence," its president, Hashim Thaci, said on Twitter.
The issue of Kosovo, to which Belgrade refuses to recognize the independence proclaimed in 2008 and supported by most Western countries, remains the most sensitive topic in the region. Due to the hostility of its Serbian entity, neither Bosnia recognizes Kosovo as a country.
Edi Rama lamented the position of Pristina. "It is also in the interests of Kosovo, its citizens and the market that the border between Kosovo and Serbia be abolished," despite the absence of a settlement between Belgrade and its former province, he said.
Meanwhile, Belgrade, Tirana and Skopje have agreed on the principle of a single work permit, allowing their nationals to work anywhere in the three countries and the possibility to travel within their territory with a simple identity card.
Also discussed was a "mini Schengen" that would facilitate the free transit of foreign visitors within the borders.
At the same time, the three countries have decided to facilitate customs procedures and phytosanitary controls at the borders to speed up the passage of trucks.
The next meeting is scheduled for December 21 in Durres, Albania.