EU Czech presidency pushes forward visas issue for Kosovo

The Czech Presidency of the European Union wants to start the procedures that will lead to the final decision on visa liberalization for Kosovo in October.

This is stated in a letter that the presidency has sent to the EU member states, through which the ambition of the Czech Presidency to build support among the member states is expressed while warning that this issue will be on the agenda of the working group on visas at the October meeting.

 "Visa liberalization is a key element in the process of Kosovo's integration into the EU, which is already very late. Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans (and one of the few countries in Europe) that has not yet secured a visa-free regime with the EU. This fact has a considerable negative impact on the atmosphere in the country and on the attitudes of the citizens of Kosovo about the correctness and credibility of the EU" is underlined in this letter.

The letter also confirms that the Czech Presidency is in close contact with the European Commission and that there is agreement on a technical update of the roadmap for visa liberalization, which would cover the period from the report published in 2018. It is also added that the Czech Presidency fully believes that this update will be positive and will confirm the results of the Commission's findings in 2018, which will enable Kosovo to finally achieve visa liberalization.

As the Czech Presidency, as stated in the document, considers that the reasons related to foreign policy for the establishment of visa liberalization for Kosovo are convincing, it hopes that all EU member states will reach an internal political agreement on this issue.

"The EU's geopolitical approach to the Western Balkans is indispensable. The region needs a clear signal that the EU enlargement process is credible and that the EU is ready to reward the reform efforts made by the countries of the Western Balkans" – states the letter-  while the issue of liberalization is mentioned as an example of how the EU can increase credibility in the region.

Otherwise, the issue of visas should be on the agenda of the working group on October 13. If this happens, then it is considered that the decision-making procedures have started with the aim of a positive decision and the approval of the visa-free regime for the citizens of Kosovo. With the most optimistic scenario, and in case everything goes well, the procedures should be completed by December of this year, while the entry into force of the decision is expected to happen in the first months of 2023.

Citizens of Kosovo are the only ones in the region who do not enjoy the freedom of movement in the Schengen area. Serbia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have had visa liberalization since December 2009, while Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina since December 2010.

Kosovo received the guide for visas in 2012. In 2018, the European Commission recommended the lifting of the visa regime for Kosovo, while each year it has repeated this recommendation.

Following the recommendation of the European Commission, two European institutions must vote for visa liberalization: the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament has already completed the voting procedure, while the issue has stalled at the political level, namely at the Council of Ministers. For visa issues, the decision is taken by a qualified majority, which means 55 percent of the EU states represent 65 percent of the general population in the EU.

Autor: RTK