Joseph: Open Balkan undermines the Berlin Process

Edward P. Joseph, a foreign policy expert with experience in the Balkans, said in an interview with Deutsche Welle that the Open Balkan initiative undermines the Berlin Process.

He argued that the Open Balkan is not only a distraction from the key problems of the region but also a threat that can deteriorate the existing political problems.

“Members of the U.S Senate have just presented legislation on the Balkans, which includes the proposal ‘to assess the regional cooperation initiatives such as the Open Balkan initiative and the ‘Western Balkans Common Regional Market. The threats from the Open Balkan have not been understood well, although they are very clear to many people in the Balkans. I have served around 12 years in the region, including the years of war in all countries in conflict. Like many others in the region, I notice dynamics and developments, especially in the discourse of nationalism of ‘Great Serbia’, pushed forward by President Aleksandar Vucic and his envoys, under the flag ‘Serbian World’. The Open Balkan initiative is not only a distraction from the key problems of the region, which are political, but it is, in fact, a threat that can further deteriorate these political problems,” he said.

Joseph also said that despite its motives or goals, the initiative is very problematic. “I’ve said this before why North Macedonia and Albania accept the Open Balkan because they are not directly threatened by Serbian nationalistic ambitions expressed by Vucic. The ‘Serbian World’ has nothing to do with Albania and North Macedonia. Extravagantly, Vucic tells the Macedonians that he does not challenge their language (like Bulgarians do), but Vucic supports efforts that undermine the identity of Montenegro. It is crystal clear: Serbian nationalism is a threat to the Montenegrins, not to the Macedonians, even though the latter understand very well how the Open Balkan will strengthen Vucic’s Serbian nationalism,” he argued.