Weary waiting for EU, Balkan trio boost regional integration

Jun 8, 2022, 8:57 AM | Updated: 9:44 am

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Frustrated by their countries’ sluggish progress toward joining the European Union, three Western Balkan leaders moved Wednesday to further boost regional economic and labor integration.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania and Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski of North Macedonia signed deals on tax administration, tourism and cultural cooperation, and on mutual recognition of academic degrees for labor market purposes.

North Macedonia’s Kovachevski, who hosted the meeting at the lakeside Ohrid resort, said the tax deal would “better enable the movement of goods, capital and services. These are steps being taken toward establishing practices used by the European Union.”

“The Western Balkans must be part of the European Union,” he said. “The war in Ukraine is a risk for increased influence of third parties in the region. Leaving a geostrategic gap in this part of Europe is not an option.”

The initiative of the three countries, which has been dubbed “Open Balkans,” began in 2019. Fellow Western Balkan nations Montenegro and Bosnia have expressed interest in joining the initiative.

Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia are at different stages on the path to EU membership.

Serbia has launched full membership negotiations, while Albania and North Macedonia have fulfilled the criteria for beginning the talks.

But neighboring EU member Bulgaria opposes North Macedonia’s bid, citing a bilateral dispute over history and national identity. Launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all 27 EU nations.

Because Albania’s trajectory is linked to North Macedonia’s, Bulgaria’s veto has prevented both countries from moving forward.

Albania’s Rama was dismissive Wednesday of the Bulgarian approach.

“Bulgaria, at some point, will get bored with this game and will find another toy to play with,” he said.

As to the EU’s position, he said: “If they want a wedding, we’re ready. If they don’t, we’re still here. No problem.”

“I’ll say this bluntly,” Rama added. “When I used to go to Brussels, they would encourage me. Now, when I go to Brussels, I’m the one who has to do the encouraging.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

9 injured in shooting near beach in Hollywood, Florida

Police are responding to a shooting near the beach broadwalk in Hollywood, Florida.

1 day ago

Crew members assemble the main stage ahead of the 2023 Scripps Nations Spelling Bee on Sunday, May ...

Associated Press

Exclusive secrets of the National Spelling Bee: Picking the words to identify a champion

As the final pre-competition meeting of the Scripps National Spelling Bee's word selection panel stretches into its seventh hour, the pronouncers no longer seem to care.

1 day ago

FILE - Gabby Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt, wipes a tear from her face during a news conference o...

Associated Press

Mother of man who killed Gabby Petito said in letter she would help son ‘dispose of a body’

The mother of the man who killed Gabby Petito told her son in an undated letter that she would “dispose of a body” if needed because she loved him so much, according to copies of the note shared publicly for the first time this week by attorneys for Petito's parents.

4 days ago

A member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, places flags in front of e...

Associated Press

5 things to know about Memorial Day including its controversies

Memorial Day is supposed to be about mourning the nation’s fallen service members, but it’s come to anchor the unofficial start of summer and a long weekend of discounts on anything from mattresses to lawn mowers.

4 days ago

FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he test...

Associated Press

Officers describe chaos, fear on Jan. 6 as judge weighs prison time for Oath Keepers’ Rhodes

Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and public servants who fled the mob's attack told a judge on Wednesday that they are still haunted by what they endured, as the judge prepares to hand down sentences in a landmark Capitol riot case.

5 days ago

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday,...

Associated Press

Target on the defensive after removing LGBTQ+-themed products

Target once distinguished itself as being boldly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

Weary waiting for EU, Balkan trio boost regional integration