European Movement in Serbia and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung are organizing an online discussion under the title Regional Cooperation – From “Mini-Schengen” to New Accession Block. The debate is a part of the Serbia Post Corona serious and will take place via Zoom on September 10, 2020, 11:00 am.
Several issues regarding regional cooperation in the Western Balkans have been dominating the scene. The level of regional solidarity during the COVID-19 crisis needs to be discussed. We have witnessed several good moves, but some bad experiences as well.
Serious problem of 100% taxes introduced by Kosovo government for goods imported from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in November 2018, was solved only at the beginning of June 2020. This was one of the greatest obstacles for normal functioning of several regional organizations aiming to support free trade and investment. The most affected regional organizations were the CEFTA2006 and RCC which were in charge of developing the Regional Economic Area (REA) with free movement of goods, services, investments, and people, as well as the Western Balkans Digital Agenda.
A partial reaction to this regional issue was launching of the so called “Mini Schengen” between Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. This initiative had the same aim as REA, but with much stronger focus on establishment of regional labor market and faster facilitation of border crossing for goods traded by three countries. The initiative launched in October 2019 was very controversial both for the other three WB countries, which did not accept to join and for different external partners.
A new challenge now is the emergence of the “accession block” of the four WB countries (Albania Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia) with a great potential to share the experiences in the accession process and coordinate common positions wherever possible, in particular those related to the forthcoming debates on the future of Europe.
The aim of the debate is to discuss ways to strengthen regional economic cooperation and integration, speeding up the creation of a common Western Balkans economic area and deeper integration of the region into the European Union’s legal and economic system, which is crucial for the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
The working language will be Serbian, and translation into English is provided via Zoom. The event will be live-streamed on the Facebook and Youtube pages of the organizers.