Advancing regional cooperation in the Western Balkans is one of the priority paths towards common progress and integration in the European Union. The Berlin process is one of the key signposts on that path. Last November, the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia together with the Governments of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo at the Berlin process summit signed three agreements on the mutual recognition of identity cards, university diplomas and professional qualifications.
Almost five months after their signing, the ratifications of these agreements have been completed in only two countries. Albania was the first to ratify all three agreements, and Tirana will be the host of the 2023 Berlin process summit. All the agreements were ratified by Kosovo as well, and with their implementation, the visa regime will be abolished between the citizens of Kosovo and B&H, the only one between two Western Balkans countries. In B&H, ratification is at a standstill due to political challenges and a complicated ratification procedure. The Government of Serbia approved the ratification of the agreements and prepared draft laws, which are still in parliamentary procedure. In Montenegro, the Government adopted the agreements, but they have not yet entered the parliamentary procedure.
The Institute for Democracy welcomes the adoption of the three agreements at the 135th session of the Government of North Macedonia on March 14, 2023. As the depository of the three international agreements signed within the Berlin process, we call on the Government to submit them to the Parliament as soon as possible, and for the Parliament to put them on the agenda for ratification promptly and vote with consensus. Commitment to improving the lives of citizens should be demonstrated with deeds and in action, especially in processes that depend entirely on the proactivity and promptness of state institutions.
The agreements that are a part of the Berlin process have attracted a lot of public attention and support. The most recent survey by the Institute for Democracy showed that the vast majority (80%) of citizens see the possibility of a long-term work in any country of the Western Balkans as an attractive possibility. Furthermore, the opening of borders between the Western Balkan countries is considered useful by 85% of the respondents, while the possibility of using one’s own education in the Western Balkans countries is viewed positively by 84% of the respondents.
Considering the high level of support, the Members of Parliament should be more actively involved in promoting the benefits of the Berlin process, but also scrutiny the level of implementation of the commitments. Currently, there is no such mechanism in place to review the commitments made and actions taken by the government and no regional connectivity or knowledge sharing platforms around it.
With insufficient involvement in this key mechanism for regional cooperation and development, the MPs do not respond to the needs of their citizens, although a large number of citizens support the solutions that come as a result of the Berlin process. These agreements are of particular importance in relation to the reform agenda on the EU path – a path that includes the Berlin Process as complementary process.