Negotiations between Parliament and Council on granting Kosovo’s citizens visa-free access to the EU got the green light from the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday.
MEPs backed, with 30 votes to 10 and 2 abstentions, opening the negotiations and approved the composition of the EP negotiating team. The committee had already endorsed in September 2016 the proposal to waive visa requirements for the people of Kosovo, pending the fulfilment of all the benchmarks required, in particular the ratification of the border agreement with Montenegro.
This was one of the 95 criteria established in the visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU, which began in 2012. The European Commission confirmed last month that Kosovo has now met all the requirements. The Kosovo Assembly approved the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro on 21 March 2018.
Last Balkan country to get visa-free access to the EU
Following the abolition of visas for the citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in 2009 and for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010, Kosovo was left isolated, being the only Balkan country whose citizens still needed a visa to travel to the EU.
Tanja Fajon (S&D, SI), rapporteur for the draft proposal, said: “Hard work has paid off and another important step concluded in this long process. It is now up to the Council to recognise the progress made, too, and to adopt swiftly their mandate. Kosovo citizens deserve to travel freely to Europe again and to step out of isolated shadows, where they have been left for far too long.”
The decision to start negotiations with the Council will have to be confirmed by plenary in an upcoming session. Once Parliament and Council reach an agreement on the visa waiver, Kosovars will be able to enter the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period -provided they hold a biometric passport-, for business, tourism or family purposes.
The lifting of visa requirements applies to all EU countries, except the United Kingdom and Ireland, and to the four non-EU Schengen states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).