In the first minutes of December 19 2009, 50 citizens of Serbia will be the first to travel to the European Union without visas in their passports in a flight from Belgrade to Brussels.
This group of Serbian citizens, who were selected through the “Europe for everyone” open competition and have not had the opportunity to visit the EU before, will also visit Rome, Berlin and Paris.
This trip will symbolically mark the abolition of visas for Serbian citizens to travel to the EU, a European Commission media statement said.
The journey has been organised by Serbian authorities in co-operation with the European Movement in Serbia.
The project is supported by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement under the “People 2 People” Programme, as well as by the embassies of France, Italy and Germany.
On the afternoon of December 19, European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, will welcome the group led by the Serbian deputy prime minister for European integration, Božidar Đelić.
On November 30, the EU decided that citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia would be able to travel visa-free to the Schengen area as of December 19 2009.
The new visa free regime will apply to all holders of biometric passports, who can now travel to the Schengen area for up to 90 days per six-month period.
The Schengen area is made up of 28 European countries – all EU member states except the UK and Ireland, as well as three non-EU members, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
People who do not have a biometric passport and the residents of Kosovo holding a Serbian passport issued by the Co-ordination Directorate in Belgrade will still need a visa.
The same goes for people who intend to work during a short stay or who want to come for more than 90 days; they need visas and work permits.
The European Commission started the visa liberalisation dialogue in early 2008 with Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Centrepieces of the dialogue have been the European Commission’s roadmaps, setting out the conditions that each country had to meet. In July 2009 the EC proposed lifting the visa obligation for the first three countries.
The European Parliament gave a positive opinion in November 2009.
Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are also covered by the visa dialogue, are not included in the decision, because the EC’s most recent assessment found that they did not yet meet all the requirements.