EU Visa Scrapping for Balkans Faces Delay

resizer33The scrapping of EU visas for Macedonia, Serbia and most likely Montenegro will probably be postponed for several months, media in Skopje claimed on Monday.

The “visa wall” can only fall in mid-2010, and not at the beginning of the year as previously hoped, local Utrinski Vesnik daily reports. According to unnamed sources in the European Commission, the main reason for this is Germany’s suggestion to the EC to wait until its federal election in September.

The newspaper claims that Germany is also annoyed by Serbia’s alleged practice of issuing its own passports to Kosovo Albanians. Kosovo is not yet prepared for visa scrapping, Brussels says.

“The optimism in the EC about the visa liberalisation is stagnating and it is hard to predict. The main reasons are the signals form Berlin,” an unnamed EC source was cited as saying.

EU’s enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn repeated in the past few months that the countries are eligible for this historic step. Macedonia was mentioned as frontrunner.

Macedonia, it is claimed, could still be immune from the latest developments and granted visa liberalisation first.

“Macedonia fulfils almost all criteria, but without a package with Serbia, the country would have Germany, France and Spain against it,” an unnamed European diplomat is quoted as saying.

Balkan countries complain that the difficult visa procedures deter people from travel and hamper the bussinesses.

For almost half of Macedonia’s citizens the annulment of Schengen visa requirements is a top priority, this month’s opinion poll by the the local Institute for Democracy shows.

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