The European Commission does not have a clear answer to the proposal of Prime Minister Albin Kurti to reshape existing free trade agreements and what is expected to happen for free movement within the region, in a single agreement, which would have the same ratios. with the EU as well as the EFTA member countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) that have with the European bloc.
EC spokeswoman Ema Pisonero told dtt-net.com that the current Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) is the “current framework” for trade in the Western Balkans, suggesting that ideas for improvement its further discussion should be discussed by the six member states.
However, she did not have a concrete answer about Kurti’s proposal for SEFTA (Southeast Europe Free Trade Agreement).
The Commission, together with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), supports the leaders of the Western Balkans in implementing the commitments made at the BP6 Sofia Summit towards building a Common Regional Market . “We hope to see tangible results during the Berlin summit (July 5)”, said Pisonero, reports Zeri.info.
The added value of agreements or decisions reached within the inclusive frameworks of regional cooperation, according to her, is that they bring benefits to all citizens of the region.
“All ideas to improve regional cooperation should be discussed in appropriate regional forums with relevant stakeholders. “CEFTA remains the current framework for conducting trade in the region, and is rooted in all SAAs,” she said.
The EC spokeswoman said that thanks to this agreement, all companies in the region are trading without tariffs within the region.
“We encourage CEFTA Parties to continue their efforts to improve CEFTA, as is done through the Additional Trade Facilitation and Trade Protocols, and to establish a mechanism for resolving trade disputes,” he concluded. , EC spokeswoman Ema Pisonero.
We recall that Kurti, during the summit of BP leaders held in Tirana last week, proposed a new cooperation agreement between the countries of the Western Balkans.
He dubbed the initiative the “Southeast European Free Trade Agreement” – or SEFTA.
The agreement will include Albania, Kosovo, northern Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia “as equal members with equal rights”.
According to Kurti’s proposal, SEFTA will create a joint economic zone of the 6 Western Balkan countries.
A Council, Joint Committee, Court, Secretariat and Oversight authority will be established within it.
The proposal stipulates that once SEFTA is established, the EU will enter into an agreement with it to extend the four freedoms – free movement of goods, services, persons and capital – to all SEFTA countries.
The agreement with the EU would also provide for an oversight mechanism, run and operated within the European Union to ensure that all members respect the agreement.
An agreement similar to Kurti’s proposal currently in force is the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which provides for the creation of a free economic zone, where the Balkans are treated preferentially in EU economic relations.
But CEFTA has not brought about the expected increase in regional trade between the Western Balkan countries. Kurti has opposed the current model of CEFTA because, according to him, he treats Kosovo as unequal.
Another regional proposal is the “Balkan Schengen” proposed by the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama and supported by Serbia and Northern Macedonia.
Unlike SEFTA and CEFTA, “Balkan Schengen” is based on the political will of its members to establish 4 EU freedoms between them without external oversight mechanisms. This proposal was opposed by Bosnia and Kosovo. Pristina claimed that it is not recognized as an independent state by Belgrade under the agreement.
Proposals for regional co-operation in the Western Balkans come as part of the Berlin Process. This is an initiative launched by Chancellor Merkel which requires the countries of the Western Balkans to integrate regionally before EU integration based on the legislation required by Brussels. / Voice