The space for evading the entry into the “Open Balkan” initiative has been very tight so far, and that anxiety has from time to time made charlatans out of those who resist it. Their excuses were sometimes comical, sometimes bordering on conspiracy theories, such as that it was a “Russian conspiracy”, which was spoken in Sarajevo, or that it was another name for the “Serbian world”, and often it is about the restoration of the former Yugoslavia. How can you ever convince anyone that two NATO members (Albania and North Macedonia) are carrying out a “Russian hoax” in the Balkans? Or that Edi Rama participates in the creation of the “Serbian world”, or that Aleksandar Vučić creates a new Yugoslavia together with the Prime Minister of Albania?
Next month will be exactly two years since the turmoil in the Balkans, but also in many EU structures, when Vučić, Rama and Zoran Zaev presented a project in Novi Sad, which they then called “mini-Schengen”. This confusion continues, partly through the mentioned comical statements, but also through the answers that are not.
The objection is, for example, that “Open Balkans”, unlike many European initiatives in the Balkans, did not include all Balkan countries. Of course not, just as the European Union did not have 27 members when it was founded, but six. Just as the United Nations did not have 193 current members on the day of its establishment, but 51. The objection is that “Open Balkan” does not fit into the European plans for accession and that it does not have an EU stamp that it is allowed for use in the Balkans. This is often used by European “friends of the Balkans”, politicians, experts and the media who simply cannot understand that someone has succeeded in producing integration in the Balkans, and not just the disruptions they have been anxiously writing about for decades, teaching to students and speaking at conferences.
The chance for excuses for not entering the “Open Balkan” seems to be disappearing sharply. The new high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, strongly supported the “Open Balkan” in Belgrade, opening the door wide for the country whose stability he is in charge of on behalf of international powers to join the triple Balkan economic integration. Given Schmidt’s powers, and above all the political influence of his “base” from which he comes, the open support he gave to “Open Balkan” should be understood as a sure sign that Bosnia and Herzegovina will now rapidly move towards the position of fourth member of “Open Balkan”.
Schmidt is at the very beginning of his mandate, for his authority in his new job, he needs quick and visible success, and expectations from his mission are high not only in Germany, which delegated him, but also in Brussels and Washington. That is why the membership of BiH in the “Open Balkan” would be an important point not only for the German politician, but especially for the western capitals, which are increasingly engaged in finding a solution for the functioning of BiH. On the other hand, his open support for the new Balkan integration is so far the most convincing sign that the “Open Balkan” received the “stamp” of open Western support, which it had so far with a dose of reserve.
It is no coincidence that BiH is the first country to decide and join the initiative of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia. Its specificity is precisely in the character and function of Christian Schmidt, as an international “supervisor” of political life, with enormous powers. Apart from BiH, only Kosovo in the Balkans has such a degree of international (Western) influence in political life, and that is why Kosovo, after Bosnia and Herzegovina, could be the next, fifth member of the “Open Balkan”. And faster than many expect.
As usual, Kosovo’s political leaders find it difficult to recognize important developments at the international level, especially those that directly affect them, and least of all understand that their internal circumstances and their attitude towards the environment depend exclusively on these international movements, not on the promises they made to voters. From time to time, they have to remind them of that, and then it seems very direct, even rude.
Albin Kurti definitely does not understand what is happening with the support of Europe and the United States for the “Open Balkan”, because otherwise he would not say that Kosovo will reduce imports from Serbia. How does he intend to do that, except for some new 100% fees? How does he intend to explain to his partners in Europe and America the idea that his administration will reduce imports from Serbia, because he does not like it and because he has elections in ten days, so he must be a great Albanian and a strong nationalist? If she cares about her career, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani should very quickly devise a plan for her recent statement that the “Open Balkan” is a dangerous initiative and will never come to life. Simply because she can very quickly find herself in a situation where she needs to support, promote, maybe even sign the entry into the free trade zone, open movement of people, goods, services and capital in the Western Balkans, in short “Open Balkan”.
There is no doubt that “Open Balkan” will have an important place at the upcoming summit of European and Western Balkan leaders on Brdo near Kranj. Judging by Ljubljana’s strong lobbying so far for the fastest possible inclusion of the Balkans in the EU, it would not be a surprise if the Summit passes with some tangible and concrete wind in the back of Vučić’s, Rama’s and Zaev’s initiative. The calculation so far is quite simple. At the moment, about 30 European and regional initiatives are “operating” in the Balkans, the goal of which is to connect the region from within and to better prepare it for membership in the European Union. Is there anyone besides a handful of officials in Brussels and their colleagues in the Balkan capitals who could, without thinking, name at least five or six of these associations, projects, initiatives, alliances? Not to mention at least one of their successes in the goals they set for themselves.
Opposite that gigantic network of about thirty futile endeavors, there is only one, “Open Balkan”, and only it has a chance for success. Because it was created and works as a “fruit of domestic wisdom”, as an authentic expression of the basic needs (for now) of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia to make life easier for their people while they wait at the door of membership in the European Union. Probably with new members soon.