Western Balkans promoting own Schengen

At their Open Balkan meeting on Thursday, the Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Albania Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama as well as Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić decided to end border controls between the three countries beginning 1 January 2023. This means the "Mini-Schengen" on the Western Balkans is continuing to take shape - in contrast to joining the EU, as commentators emphasise.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Going it alone instead

Brussels' empty promises are the main factor behind the initiative, La Stampa believes:

“Delays in the negotiations for EU admission, broken promises and growing disillusionment with Brussels. Thus, a hard core of Balkan countries that are not yet part of the European club and are often on opposing fronts even in peacetime have decided to cooperate. And to go it alone and create a kind of 'mini-Schengen' - a potential alternative to the European chimera, or perhaps a way to bring immediate prosperity to the Balkans. The protagonists are nations that are increasingly pressing down on the accelerator that is to lead to the emergence of a kind of common market for the entire Balkans.”

Duma (BG) /

Brussels should support Western Balkans' mini-Schengen

This development actually suits the EU, says Duma:

“Some in Brussels may see the initiative as a kind of integration separatism where instead of a European alliance something like a Balkan alliance is being forged. But this is a purely European concept, so Brussels needn't start pointing the finger. The EU should actually be glad that the mini-economic alliance will make the three countries' annoyance with the slow European integration process more bearable. At the same time, Brussels must not stop talking about the European perspectives of the Western Balkan countries if it doesn't want them to turn their gaze too much towards China or Russia.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

In any case the EU is not eternal

To Dnevnik, this development confirms that the EU is not a static construct:

“The official EU had begun to split up before this. ... [Into] a Bulgarian-Romanian EU and a German EU. In addition, the Visegrád Union comprising Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary was formed to the west of Serbia. A union with its own values, different from those of Brussels, and which does not recognise all European laws and courts. ... In the West, the old EU countries are gradually building up their Northern Europe and only think of the South in the holidays. ... The European Union seemed eternal. But then it turned out that it was just as temporary as all other forms of aggregation.”