EU: Covid recovery cash rules ‘heavy handed’ says expert
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The mini-Schengen area is a planned economic zone between Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia. It was first announced in 2019 and now the countries have vowed to press ahead with plans to implement this zone by the end of the year, as aggravations towards the EU grow over the delays in the membership process.
Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia are due to launch their own border-free travel and business zone amid growing resentment towards the European Union (EU).
The leaders of each nation have hit out at Brussels over the slow pace of the enlargement of the EU.
They have vowed to forge ahead with their own plans to create a free travel and business zone between their countries.
More details of the proposal are expected to be unveiled this week.
Balkans mini Schengen: Three countries have hit out at the EU for their delayed membership process (Image: GETTY)
Balkans mini Schengen: Albania applied for EU membership in April 2009 (Image: GETTY)
Serbia officially applied for EU membership on December 22, 2009.
Accession negotiations are currently ongoing and these are expected to end by the conclusion of 2024, enabling the nation to join by 2025.
Albania applied for EU membership on April 28, 2009, and accession talks began in March 2020.
North Macedonia submitted its membership application in 2004 and it became a candidate for accession in 2005.
The EU gave its formal approval to begin accession talks with North Macedonia in March 2020, but Bulgaria blocked the nation’s official start of accession negotiations in November 2020 over what it perceived as slow progress on the implementation of the 2017 Friendship Treaty between the two countries.
Balkans mini Schengen: Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009 (Image: GETTY)
Serbia’s President Alexander Vucic told the FT: “We know there’s enlargement fatigue in the EU.
“We need to see what we can do for ourselves [instead], what we can do for our people, how we can expand our markets.”
North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he was frustrated the EU failed to deliver on its promises.
Mr Zaev told the FT: “We need to accelerate practical benefits to our citizens.”
The Albanian Premier Edi Rama compared working with the EU to Samuel Beckett’s existentialist play Waiting for Godot, during which two men engage in a series of absurd conversations as they anticipate the arrival of someone who never comes.
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Balkans mini Schengen: Mr Vucic said there’s ‘enlargement fatigue’ in the EU (Image: GETTY)
Although the final details are due to be confirmed on Thursday, it is thought the ‘mini-Schengen’ zone will include a gradual easing of travel restrictions.
In addition, faster ‘green lanes’ at borders, reduced waiting times for freight and easier access to work permits will be included in the travel zone.
President Vucic said the travel zone will likely come into being by the end of the year.
Eventually, the zone is intended to include more countries, featuring Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It also remains open to the disputed state of Kosovo.
Balkans mini Schengen: Details on the mini-Schengen will be revealed on Thursday (Image: GETTY)
All these countries would have to overcome several stages to progress and become EU member states.
Electoral, judicial and economic reforms will have to be enacted before the countries officially join the bloc.
The mini-Schengen will change the region’s narrative to ease tensions and appeal for EU’s membership and more investment.
North Macedonia changed its name to respect the sensitivities of EU member Greece, and was admitted to Nato last year.
The European Commission, which leads the evaluating process for EU membership, said it supported all efforts to integrate all six western Balkan states into a common regional market.
As time passes, the attraction for other potential EU partners could grow.