Task Forces

23.12.2021.

Milos Stevanovic on the "Open Balkans" and the new big market

By Miloš Stevanović, lawyer, member of EWB and the Serbian Group of the Trilateral Commission Published by The Prestige magazine ​

These days, we have had the opportunity to hear various information in the media regarding the issue of the open Balkans. Depending on which media you follow, the polarization of attitudes towards the issue of the "Open Balkans" project has become so profound that on December 20, 2021, protests were held in Tirana against this initiative. They were obviously politically motivated, because it was a protest of the opposition in Albania and opposition to any idea that also alleges a leading role of the Republic of Serbia.

On November 21, 2021, a large, top-level panel was held in the House of the National Assembly of Serbia on the issue of further expansion of the project, which is largely supported by the Republic of Serbia. The panel was addressed by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia Ana Brnabić, the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dačić, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia Zorana Mihajlović, the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, the US Ambassador to Serbia Anthony Godfrey, the US President's Special Envoy Gabriel Escobar. Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov, and a large number of businessmen from the entire region took part in the panel. The panel was moderated  by Jovan Kovacic, president of the East West Bridge International organization and president of the Serbian group of the Trilateral Commission, with the support of Vladimir Marinkovic, MP in the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, co-founder of the Serbian-American Friendship Congress.

The panel presented the latest research on the creation of a large economic space that would allow the creation of a single large market with over 12,000,000 people with freedom of movement of capital, goods, services, and people. It would eliminate a large number of bureaucratic procedures, increase labor employment, lower customs barriers, and generally lead to a great expansion in economic terms. The public has previously heard about this idea as a "Little Schengen".

Any businessman who at least monitors the basic indicators of economic trends in the Balkan region can see that there is a significant inflow of investment (not only foreign but also significantly started the domestic investment cycle) in Serbia which is fostering an attractive economic climate. So it would be more than just expedient to have such a trend spill over to the entire territory of the Western Balkans (this expression has become so "domesticated", the question arises why we have never heard anything about the "Eastern Balkans"?). Serbia, as a promoter of the idea, managed to make a great move together with Northern Macedonia and Albania and started working on creating one such organization (now called "Open Balkans"), which primarily aims to start the economy and direct social, economic and all other trends, all of which make up the formula for success in the Balkans: the economy.

 

Inflamed by political stories, by the nonsense in which the Balkans have been swimming, or better said almost drowning for decades, the region can become the most ideal place for a normal and peaceful life but only through a united economic space where national identities will remain highly protected, freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people guaranteed, where all members of the "Open Balkans" would enjoy multiple benefits and effects. The panel in Belgrade also presented economic research that showed the multidimensional structure of the project in economic terms and presented facts and figures which proved that the creation of a single market would really create unlimited opportunities.

Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina has declined the invitation to participate in the "Open Balkans" program. It is obvious that there is a complete discrepancy between the policy of Republika Srpska that supports the approach to this idea, while on the other hand, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no common position on this issue, and therefore the initiative is on hold. Unfortunately, this is detrimental to all citizens in BiH who need the economy and creation, rather than incessant stories about political problems, tensions, and issues that the younger generations could not care for all that much. Certainly, the author of this text absolutely supports preserving all national, cultural, and other identities of the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but is similarly convinced that the economy could now easily become the dominant topic given that the state must unavoidably follow the world trends.

 

The "Open Balkans" initiative brought another great idea launched by Jovan Kovacic: the creation of a large regional investment bank, founded by the United States and OB member states. Such a regional investment bank "Open Balkans" would support projects aimed at better economic integration, but also finance all companies that would better connect the region, open factories and thus continue expansion through the creation of goods and services in the new market area.

I notice that there have been some dissonant tones from politicians from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania who are of the opinion that this is the creation of a new great Yugoslavia. Certainly, this is not only false, but also a complete misunderstanding of the thesis, because Albania itself and its Prime Minister have made a great contribution to the creation of this idea. Furthermore, the United States has thrown in its major support to the initiative because this way tensions in the Balkans would certainly calm down and return to normal and rational flows that would lead to new solutions through dialogue.

The author urges the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to reconsider the idea of joining the "Open Balkans": creating a large market that would precede joining the European Union, shifting the daily focus from vitriolic political to development economic issues that will prevent young people from leaving the country, increase the standard of living, support to businessmen for further creation and removal of barriers, both mental and economic, all of which for mutual benefit and security and stability of the region. What could possibly be wrong with that and who could possibly be against it?