West News Wire: On Tuesday, the leaders of Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia met in Tirana to discuss and agree on how to advance their Open Balkan initiative, which aims to strengthen political and economic ties between the three countries.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama hosted a two-day meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in the Albanian capital.

Their ministers signed agreements on the labor market, electronic identification, agro-veterinary cooperation, and the removal of non-tariff barriers for businesses, according to Rama, from which “tens of thousands of people will directly benefit very soon.”

The Open Balkan Summit is part of Germany and France’s Berlin Process cooperation to promote regional development.

The three western Balkan countries are at various stages of their EU membership journeys.

While Serbia has launched full membership negotiations, Albania and North Macedonia have both fulfilled the criteria for beginning membership negotiations, but EU member Bulgaria opposes North Macedonia’s membership, citing a bilateral dispute over history and national identity.

Since the two countries’ bids are linked and launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all 27 EU nations, the veto has also prevented Albania from moving forward.

“When the EU fails to invite us we are obliged to launch constant initiatives to Europeanise our region and bring a better life for our citizens,” said Zaev.

Three other western Balkan countries — Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro — have not joined the Open Balkan initiative.

The next summit will be in Skopje, North Macedonia, in February next year.

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