Open Balkan
Logo of Open Balkan
  Member states
  Potential member states
Administrative centers
Official languages
Establishment29 July 2021
• Total
131.935 km2 (50.940 sq mi)
• 2024 estimate
GDP (PPP)estimate
• Total
$381.425 billion
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)2024 estimate
• Total
$159.418 billion
Time zoneUTC+01:00

The Open Balkan is an economic and political zone of three member states in the Balkans, those being Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. The zone has a total area of 131,935 km2 (50,940 sq mi) and an estimated total population of almost 12 million located in Central and Southern Europe. The official languages are Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian. Its administrative centres are the cities of Belgrade, Skopje and Tirana. With the establishment of the zone, all three member states aim to increase trade and cooperation as well as improve bilateral relations.


Vučić, Zaev and Rama on the Economic Forum for Regional Cooperation

The idea of the Open Balkan (formerly known as Mini-Schengen Area) came in the early 1990s.[1] It was first mentioned as an economic area between these countries of the Balkan Peninsula. The plans were eventually abandoned due to the Yugoslav Wars.[2] The first signs of the Open Balkan emerged in 2018 as a way to improve political relations.[3] The idea of the area was brought by Edi Rama in Berlin when he discussed it with the interested nations. Rama took the idea of the former Prime Minister of Albania Fatos Nano.[4]

The plans for the area were declared on 10 October 2019 in Novi Sad.[5] Two meetings were held, one in Ohrid on 11 November 2019, and the other on 12 December 2019 in Durrës. These countries declared to form a unified market of 12 million people by the end of 2020. On 11 November 2019, at the 2019 Ohrid summit, the President of Serbia, the Prime Ministers of Albania and North Macedonia agreed to create an economic zone, which would further improve political and economic relations and strengthen cultural ties between the nations.[5]

The first meeting was due to be held in January or February 2020 in Belgrade. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was postponed and a potential date for new meeting in Belgrade was tentatively scheduled for spring or summer 2020.

An Open Balkan leaders summit was held on 2 September 2022 in Belgrade. Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania signed several agreements on the exchange of food products, energy, cinematography, as well as cooperation in emergency situations. The countries also agreed to further cooperation and easing tensions in the Balkan region. Montenegrin prime minister Dritan Abazović and the chairman of the council of ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zoran Tegeltija also attended the summit, expressing their wishes for these countries to join the initiative.

The former name referred to the Schengen Area, a common travel area that includes 26 European countries, but not the aforementioned Balkan countries.


Infographic on Open Balkan

The Open Balkan's intentions are to provide greater opportunities for trade, student exchanges, and encourage the EU integration in the member states, inter alia.[5] Citizens of member states will need only an ID card to visit other member states, saving time at border crossings.[6] This economic zone prepares the countries to become members of the European Union.[5][7]

In this union, goods and capital between these countries would flow quicker and more than 30 million hours would be saved crossing the borders of these three countries every year. The estimate of the World Bank projects savings of $3.2 billion, of which, according to the President Vučić, Serbia would save at least $1.5 billion.[citation needed]

On 29 July 2021, Vučić, Rama and Zaev participated in the forum for regional economic cooperation in Skopje, where they signed agreements on the movement of goods, access to the labor market and cooperation in protection against disasters.[8] It has been agreed mutual acceptance of diplomas and job qualifications, all making work forces more flexible and available and so attracting more investment. As part of the initiative, a regional economic forum attended by some 350 companies, mostly coming from these three countries but also from the wider region, was also held.[9]

Member states

The Open Balkan currently comprises three member states, including Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia.

State Capital Accession Population (2020)[10] Area Population density Urban areas Languages
 Albania Tirana Founder 2,793,592 28,748 km2
(11,100 sq mi)
(260/sq mi)
Durrës, Elbasan, Vlorë, Shkodër Albanian
 North Macedonia Skopje Founder 1,836,713 25,713 km2
(9,928 sq mi)
(180/sq mi)
Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo Macedonian
 Serbia Belgrade Founder 6,690,887 77,474 km2
(29,913 sq mi)
(230/sq mi)
Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac, Subotica Serbian

Potential member states

Official reactions to the Open Balkan initiative:[11][12][13]
     Founders (Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia)
     Negative (Kosovo)
     Mixed (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro)

Three potential members are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo.


On 4 September 2020, Kosovo agreed to join the Mini-Schengen Area as part of the Kosovo and Serbia economic normalization agreements,[14] but so far has not signed any agreement with three founding countries, even opposing the whole initiative.[15][16][17][18] Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti rejected the invitation for the summit in Ohrid which is held on June 7–8. Kurti said that "the Open Balkan initiative is a harmful regional initiative with no vision. Kosovo does not want to join in because Serbia is not treating it as an equal side and independent country".[19]


Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazović said he supports Open Balkan Initiative,[20] saying "The Open Balkan initiative was made for six countries."[21] Also following the lates voting in Montenegro, the collective voice of the people has expressed a desire to become part of the Open Balkan Initiative. "The President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, spoke to the Viennese newspaper Der Standard about Montenegro's role in the current geopolitical moment. Commenting on the "Open Balkan" initiative, Milatović stated that our part of Europe was the only one without borders 50 years ago, but now it has borders. He also added that joining the Open Balkan is a measure to facilitate relations with Serbia, and that 60 percent of Montenegrins want Montenegro to participate in the initiative."[22]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Former Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zoran Tegeltija, expressed personal support for the initiative,[23] but Bosnia and Herzegovina still lacks a consensus about it for "political reasons".[24]


In 2020, the GDP of these countries combined would be $80.027 billion, GDP PPP would be $207.326 billion. In 2020, GDP per capita would be $6,256, GDP PPP per capita would be $16,658. Albania and North Macedonia would have higher GDP per capita and GDP PPP per capita, and Serbia's GDP/GDP PPP per capita would somewhat decrease.[citation needed][needs update] The current currencies are the Albanian lek, the Macedonian denar and the Serbian dinar.


Albania North Macedonia Serbia
Form of government Parliamentary republic
Current heads of state
and government
President Bajram Begaj President Stevo Pendarovski President Aleksandar Vučić
Prime Minister Edi Rama Prime Minister Talat Xhaferi Prime Minister Ivica Dačić
Official languages Albanian Macedonian and Albanian[25] Serbian
GDP (nominal) $18.25 billion $14.1 billion $73.96 billion
GDP (nominal) per capita $6,369 $6,816 $11,125
GDP (PPP) $51.1 billion $49.9 billion $173.365 billion
GDP (PPP) per capita $17,858 $19,783 $26,080
Real GDP growth rate (2020–22) −3.3%, 8.45%, 3.3% −4.5%, 4%, 3% −0.9%, 7.5%, 2.3%
Currency Lek Denar Dinar
Average salary €477 €516 €752

Further cooperation

On 2 August 2021, the directors of the post offices of Serbia and North Macedonia, Zoran Đorđević and Jani Makraduli signed in Belgrade a Protocol for business cooperation.[26]

On 3 August 2021, by an order of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, four helicopters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Serbia), have been sent to help colleagues from Ministry of Internal Affairs (North Macedonia) for firefighting in North Macedonia.[27][28]

On 12 May 2022, Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Tatjana Matić talked in Tirana with Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment Mirela Kumbaro about cooperation within the "Open Balkans" initiative, with an emphasis on removing barriers and reaching an agreement in the field of tourism.[29]

See also


  1. ^ "Montenegro's new criticism of the Open Balkan initiative divides rather than unites - European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity". (in Dutch). 2022-11-30. Retrieved 2023-04-17.
  2. ^ Dubessy, Frédéric. "Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia unite in "Open Balkans", antechamber to the Schengen Area". Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean. Retrieved 2023-04-17.
  3. ^ Albania, Euronews (2021-09-14). "Open Balkan – how it came to fruition and where it's heading". Euronews Albania. Retrieved 2023-04-17.
  4. ^ Rama i përgjigjet Vuçiçit, retrieved 2021-08-14
  5. ^ a b c d Simić, Julija (11 October 2019). "Three countries agree mini Schengen in the Balkans". Euractiv. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  6. ^ "Mini-Schengen: what does this accord mean for the EU?". Retrieved 2021-06-03.
  7. ^ Holroyd, Matthew (2019-11-11). "Western Balkan leaders plot their own 'mini-Schengen' zone". euronews. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  8. ^ "Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania Push Forward On 'Open Balkans' Initiative". Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  9. ^ "Balkan 'Mini-Schengen' Leaders Eye Open Borders by 2023". Balkan Insight. 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  10. ^ Citations regarding the populations of the Open Balkan member states:
  11. ^ Evropa, Radio Slobodna (2022-06-03). "Kurti odbio poziv za 'Otvoreni Balkan'". Radio Slobodna Evropa (in Serbo-Croatian). Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  12. ^ "Crna Gora: Nova bura zbog Otvorenog Balkana – DW – 26. 11. 2022". (in Serbian). Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  13. ^ ""Otvoreni Balkan" i BiH: Skok s motkom – DW – 10.06.2022". (in Bosnian). Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  14. ^ "Šta piše u sporazumu Kosova i Srbije?". Radio Slobodna Evropa (in Serbo-Croatian). 4 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Gërvalla in Slovenia: EU must stop 'mini-Schengen'". 21 media. 23 July 2021.
  16. ^ "PM Rama Criticises Kosovo Premier for Not Participating in Balkans Mini-Schengen". albanian daily news.
  17. ^ "Kosovo government does not support Open Balkans initiative". Radio Slobodna Evropa (in Macedonian). 29 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Kosovo considers the "Open Balkan" initiative as very dangerous". Alsat (in Macedonian). 30 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Kurti refuses invitation to Open Balkan summit". N1 English. 3 June 2022.
  20. ^ "Montenegro's New PM Supports 'Open Balkan' Initiative". Balkan Insight. 2022-05-11. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  21. ^ Halla, Barbara (2022-05-27). "Montenegro may be set to join Open Balkan initiative". Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  22. ^ "Milatović: 60 odsto Crnogoraca želi da se Crna Gora uključi u Otvoreni Balkan" [Milatović: 60 percent of Montenegrins want Montenegro to join the Open Balkans]. CDM (in Montenegrin). 11 June 2023. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  23. ^ EWB (2022-06-08). "Open Balkan summit: Agreement on cooperation in the area of recognition of diplomas signed". European Western Balkans. Retrieved 2022-06-08.
  24. ^ "Montenegro Mulls Joining 'Open Balkan' Initiative, Kosovo Remains Opposed". Balkan Insight. 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2022-06-08.
  25. ^ Albanian is a co-official language at a state level (excluding defence, central police and monetary policy) and in local self-government units where speakers are 20% or more.
  26. ^ "Post of Serbia - Serbian and Northern Macedonian posts sign Protocol on business cooperation".
  27. ^ "Serbia sends police choppers to help North Macedonia's firefighters". N1 (in Serbian). 2021-08-03. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  28. ^ "Serbian helicopter units are putting out fires in North Macedonia, photos from scene". (in Serbian). 4 August 2021. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  29. ^ "Regional Cooperation Council | Bregu: Removing barriers is the first step in positioning Western Balkans at the world tourism map".