Bosnia and Albania closer to EU visa-free goal after EU parliament vote

Bosnia-Hercegovina and Albania edged closer to visa-free travel to the European Union’s Schengen area, a key EU parliamentarian said Tuesday, as her report in favour of the concession was overwhelmingly approved at committee level.

Visa liberalization is one of the most prized goals for EU neighbouring states. Bosnia and Albania are the last nations in the Western Balkans who are excluded from the privilege, apart from Kosovo, whose contested status means that it is a special case.

‘We sent a very strong and positive signal today to the citizens of (Bosnia-Hercegovina) and Albania that the EU is ready to lift the visa requirements,’ said Slovenian EU lawmaker Tanja Fajon after a 49-2 vote, with no abstentions in the parliament’s civil liberties committee.

Diplomats hope that concessions such as visa-free travel – in return for which the two countries had to significantly step up their border controls – could strengthen pro-EU reformers, especially in Bosnia where elections are due to take place on October 3.

Fajon’s report is expected to be endorsed by the entire EU parliament on October 8, leaving the EU’s interior ministers to take the final decision on the scrapping of visas in early November.

If agreed, the visa-exemption should start being applied towards the end of the year, officials said.

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