Photo: Atdhe Mulla

European Commission: Kosovo has fulfilled all criteria for visa liberalization

Resuming its 2016 proposal for a visa-free regime, during a press conference the European Commission announced that Kosovo had fulfilled the last two remaining criteria.

During a press conference at the European Commission, EC, in Brussels, the commissioner of migration, home affairs and citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that Kosovo had completed all criteria to be granted visa liberalization.

“Today we can confirm that Kosovo has fulfilled all benchmarks of the visa liberalization road map. It was not easy, we know that, so we have to praise the President and his government for what they’ve done in the last months,” Avramopoulos declared, standing next to Kosovar President Hashim Thaci.

Avramopoulos lauded Kosovo for demonstrating commitment to the fight against organized crime and corruption, the last remaining criterion since Kosovo ratified the border demarcation deal with Montenegro in March.

“It is now in the hands of the European Parliament and the Council to move forward and adopt the Commission’s proposal from 2016, and I encourage them to do so swiftly,” said Avramopoulos, before adding that visa free travel would come with both “rights and obligations.”

“It is of utmost importance that the authorities of Kosovo communicate clearly with their citizens, not only about the rest, but to avoid abuses that might jeopardize this right, once fully achieved,” Avramopoulos stated.

President Thaci, who found himself in Brussels for a high level dialogue meeting with Serbian President Vucic, thanked Avramopolous and expressed his joy at the news.

“I am very happy to be here together for this very important day for Kosovo. Today’s decision to announce that the last criteria have been fulfilled, it is one of the best news that I and Kosovo citizens have received in decades,” Thaci said, calling it a “historical moment”.

Thaci also expressed his optimism that Kosovar citizens would travel visa free to Europe by the end of the year.

Nine steps remaining for visa liberalization for Kosovo

It is unclear how long the procedures to approve the EC’s proposal will take, but the decision first has to go through the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

According to Prishtina-based think tank BPRG, the Parliament will review the proposal and assign a rapporteur to prepare a report, which will be then examined by the Committee on Civil Liberties and Justice and Home Affairs, LIBE.

Back in 2016, LIBE voted to grant Kosovo a visa-free regime, but voted against the opening of negotiations without the country meeting the last two criteria.

Inter-institutional negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council need to be opened before the issue is then put to a vote at the Parliament and then the Council, and finally signed by the Parliament President and Secretary, and the President of the Council.

Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli also congratulated the country on Twitter.

18/07/2018 - 17:11

18 July 2018 - 17:11

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