EU to Lift Visas on Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro

resizer62The European Commission will propose lifting visa restrictions on three Western Balkans states – Macedonia, Serbia and Montengro – the Justice Commissioner confirmed Friday.

“A proposal will be made next Tuesday in Strasbourg to liberalize visas for nationals of the Western Balkans,” Jacques Barrot said in Brussels. “Under this proposal, the new regime will come into force on January 1,” he added.

Barrot confirmed that the countries affected by the changes in the Western Balkans would be Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.

According to a report that the European Commission prepared, only Macedonia fulfilled all the conditions needed to enter the so-called “White Schengen” list.

However, Brussels officials confirmed that although lagging behind in the process, decision-makers are pushing for Serbia and Montenegro to be included. Those two countries will be given an autumn deadline to reach certain benchmarks.

Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania started the process to obtain visa-free travel to Europe early in 2008.

However, Albania and Bosnia have been ranked at the end of the list and therefore will not be included in the first round of visa liberalization. According to EC sources, they will have to wait until the end of 2010 at the earliest.

Once the proposal has been presented, it has to pass through the Council of Ministers and finally receive a green light from the European Parliament.

The decision at the ministers’ level does not require unanimous voting, therefore European officials are hoping that the whole procedure will be finished by the end of this year, so that citizens of the three countries can freely travel in the Schengen states as from January 2010.

According to the draft report, which Balkan insight has seen, the proposal concerning Serbia includes a note stressing that visa liberalization will not apply to Kosovo.

Serbia continues to issue biometric passports to Kosovo residents who seek them, even though the former province declared its independence in February 2008 and has since been recognized by 60 countries, including the US and most EU states.

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