European Parliament. Photo: Denis Sllovinja/ BIRN

EU Stalls on Visa Liberalization for Kosovo Over Number Plates Dispute

EU Czech presidency confirms that plan to lift visas for Kosovars by January 2024 has now been withdrawn from the EU ambassadors’ agenda on Wednesday.

The Czech Presidency of the European Union has removed the proposal for the liberalization of visas for Kosovo by January 1, 2024, from the agenda of the meeting on Wednesday of the ambassadors of the EU member states.

A spokeswoman for the Czech Presidency, Eva Hrncirova, told BIRN that the EU wants to see the de-escalation of the situation over car plates in the north of Kosovo first.

“Yes, [visas are] removed [from the agenda]. CZ PRES keeps the Western Balkans high on its agenda, especially now before the EU-Western Balkans Summit. The matter of visa liberalisation for Kosovo is in the internal proceedings of the Council. We call for an immediate de-escalation of the current situation in Kosovo in relation to the car plates,” Hrncirova said.

Kosovo analyst Agon Maliqi said that this decision may result in the further hardening of current positions on the issue of visas.

“EU Council has reportedly removed from today’s agenda the decision on visa liberalisation for Kosovo, due to dialogue & developments in the north. Some might think this is leverage, but after all these years of humiliation, this will only harden positions,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Nikola Dimitrov, a North Macedonian diplomat and North Macedonia’s former foreign minister, said that the decision to remove from the agenda the decision on visa liberalization for Kosovo, is a mistake. 

“If true, this is a mistake! A proper merit based (non) decision (fulfilling a no of technical requirements) can’t be used as a pressure tool. EU’s leverage in the region is about being perceived as a principled player. The less principled it appears, the less leverage it will have,” he wrote on Twitter too.

One day earlier, representatives of the EU member states were said to be close to an agreement on liberalization of visas for Kosovo citizens, to enter into force on or by January 1, 2024. 

On Tuesday, the press officer of the Czech presidency, Emma O’Driscoll, said the date they were working on was January 1, 2024, without providing other details.

Approval of this proposal was supposed to be on the agenda at the meeting of ambassadors of EU member states due to take place on Wednesday.

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

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

Citizens of Kosovo are now the only ones in Europe who cannot travel without visas to the passport-free Schengen zone.

The European Commission has since 2018 confirmed several times that Kosovo has met all the conditions needed for visa liberalization, but several member countries have constantly expressed reservations.

On Wednesday, the parties are to discuss possible solutions to the issue of car plates in the Serb-majority far north of Kosovo.

“Today Besnik Bislimi is in Brussels and maybe there will be a meeting to try to reach an agreement within these 48 hours, we have the good will and the goal for an agreement. We have neither hatred nor anger, we do not behave with cynicism or irony but with the truth and our rights,” Kosovo PM Albin Kurti said.

and 23/11/2022 - 16:46

23 November 2022 - 16:46

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