Фото/Влада

As the first important steps of a new and concrete impulse to promote regional co-operation within the framework of the “OpenBalkan” Initiative, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the president of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, yesterday signed the Agreement on Cooperation in Protection and Rescue Operations in Natural Disasters in the Western Balkans; a Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Connection with the Freedom of Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans, and the Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Facilitating the Imports, Exports and Flow of Goods in the Western Balkans.

The Agreement on Cooperation in Protection and Rescue Operations in Natural Disasters in the Western Balkans lays the ground for the Republic of North Macedonia, the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Albania to help each other in disasters. The framework of the Agreement includes planning and implementation of measures for protection from natural disasters and accidents: from floods, earthquakes, fires, pollution of the environment, boating accidents, radiological hazards, a variety of pandemics, as well as industrial and other accidents; notifications about threats, occurrences and effects of the disasters, as well as mutual assistance in rescue operations, providing help and damage mitigation with ground and airborne crews and vehicles in case of major fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters.

The Agreement also envisions common education and training of the services – the protection and rescue unit, fire protection units and the other members of the rescue teams through briefings, trainings, workshops, seminars, and other forms of co-operation, as well as the organization and realization of joint rescue and help exercises, exchange of scientific and technical information and other documents relevant to the protection from natural disasters, as well as co-operation in the development and production of equipment for rescue operations and help provisioning.

With the Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Connection with the Freedom of Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans willingness is expressed to facilitate the movement of people in order to provide an easier and freer access to the labor market, with abolishment of the work permits and simplification of the procedures for a temporary residence permit.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation for Facilitating the Imports, Exports and Flow of Goods in the Western Balkans, aims to strengthen and enhance the economic cooperation among the three countries. One of the most important benefits of this memorandum is the simplification of the procedures related to imports, exports and transit of goods to the greatest extent possible, with the exchange of information between the customs and other relevant authorities.

As part of the ceremony of the signing of the Agreement and the memoranda yesterday, the new name of the initiative was announced – “OpenBalkan”.

“The representatives of more than 400 companies who participated in the forum are the capital of this initiative. Their discussions, debates, proposals and projects that they presented and conjoined, prove that the OpenBalkan Initiative is the platform that the region needs. This is the place where hundreds of bilateral meetings between the companies from our region took place. With president Aleksandar Vucic and prime minister Edi Rama we signed one agreement and two memoranda on co-operation. The agreement on a joint action for protection from natural disasters, assistance and mitigation of these consequences is our common ground and a mechanism for fast reaction when necessary. With the memorandum for cooperation for fast flow of goods, we greatly facilitate the imports, exports and the transport of the goods, we remove the barriers in the mutual cross-border trade, with the aim of developing the economic co-operation and increasing the volume of mutual trade exchange. With the memorandum of understanding for the work permits, our goal is liberalize the labor market and to allow our citizens to be able to work in any of these three countries identically as they would be in their home country,“ Zaev said.

He announced that at the beginning of November they will have new work meeting in Belgrade and another one at the end of the year in Tirana, and in the meantime, they will task the ministers to provide for fast realisation of the agreed principles and to develop new projects that will make the lives of the people in the three countries easier.

“But, also for our citizens from OpenBalkan to see concrete economic benefits as soon as possible – notwithstanding if it is a cheaper summer holiday in Saranda, Prespa or Kopaonik or a faster flow of goods which the companies import or export. Last night we also discussed that apart from this Economic Forum, we will establish a regional fair for wine and other products from our OpenBalkan, but also we will organize youth regional sports and other competitions in order to provide connections today for a better tomorrow,“ Zaev added.