European flag. Photo: EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Council of Ministers Gives Kosovo Green Light to Visa Free Travel

The long awaited decision of visa liberalization for Kosovars has been approved by the EU’s Council of Ministers. The decision brings to an end a decade-long wait for visa free travel within Schengen.

The EU’s Council of Ministers  approved its position on the liberalization of visas for Kosovo during its first reading on Thursday.

The European Commission, who originally negotiated visa liberalization with Kosovo, first recommended the Republic’s readiness in 2018. The European Parliament concurred with the opinion of the Commission in 2020, and it was left to the governing body of the EU to also have their  say. 

“The new rules will allow Kosovo passport holders to travel to the EU without a visa for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period,” states the Council press release.

The exemption from visa requirements will apply from the date when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) comes into operation, or from 1 January 2024, whichever comes first.

The rules must be approved by the European Parliament. They will then be signed and published in the EU Journal.

“On the basis of this assessment, the Commission proposed to lift the visa requirement for holders of passports issued by Kosovo. The exemption from the visa requirement will ensure that the whole Western Balkan region is under the same visa regime,” the press release states.

According to the EU announcement, Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of these requirements, including visa policy alignment, through the post-visa liberalization mechanism.

On November 30 last year, EU member states’ ambassadors agreed to give the EU Council a mandate to negotiate the visa liberalization process for Kosovo with the European Parliament.

Until recently, it was believed that ETIAS would enter into force on November 1 of this year, but this deadline has been postponed to 2024.

Visa liberalization will enable Kosovo citizens to travel freely in the EU’s passport-free Schengen area.

Recent discussion started on October 13, 2022 when the majority of EU member states supported it. France, however, requested that the entry into force of visa liberalization be linked to the operationalization of the ETIAS travel system. The proposal was reportedly supported by at least four other countries: Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

The European Commission first started visa liberalization dialogue with Kosovo on January 19, 2012.

Citizens of Kosovo are currently the only ones in the region who cannot travel without visas to the Schengen zone.

Blerta Begisholli contributed to this article. 

09/03/2023 - 15:12

09 March 2023 - 15:12

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