Open Balkan: А New International Organization or an Unsustainable Initiative?
With the Western Balkans’ European integration completely stalled and its future uncertain, a new regional initiative was launched by Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia. Initially called Mini Schengen, it grew into the Open Balkan Initiative with an ambitious goal to form a single market with unhindered movement of people, goods, services, and capital. Despite active involvement of state leaders, the initiative lacks transparency, legal frameworks, and concrete plans to fulfill the strategic vision. It is also difficult to expect it to grow into a classic international organization given the failure to form an implementation body. In addition, the U.S. only conditionally supports the Open Balkan by demanding the inclusion of all six Western Balkan actors (which in practice proves to be impossible), while the EU only cautiously welcomes activities leading to further regional integration, given that it initiated the competing Berlin process in 2014.
This article examines the internal and external sustainability of the Open Balkan Initiative, its prerequisites, and its projects. It also argues that without support from the U.S. and the EU, an authentic regional integration in the Western Balkans is hardly feasible. Inter alia, the three countries have modest institutional capacities and incomparably small power potential.