France ‘Won’t Stop, may Delay’, Kosovo Visa Liberalization

France will not prevent Kosovo’s visa liberalization but may link it to the ETIAS system, similarly to Qatar and Kuwait, an EU diplomat has told Prishtina Insight.

France will not stop the visa liberalization process for Kosovo, an EU diplomat, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Prishtina Insight. 

“France does not have any more issues with the visa liberalization of Kosovo. There is no conditionality towards Kosovo. I think that is exaggerated,“  the source told Prishtina Insight on Friday. 

Last week, local media reported that France proposed to link the visa liberalization process with the ETIAS system, and was supported by the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Spain.

The move was perceived as a sign that Kosovo citizens would still have to queue in front of Western embassies for Schengen-area visas.

“The Council wants ETIAS to be fully operational in order to control its borders, not only for Kosovo but for all countries that want visa liberalization with the EU, such as Qatar and Kuwait,” the source added. 

The European Travel Information and Authorization System, ETIAS, is a system to strengthen security checks on people who travel to the EU from visa-free countries. It was proposed by the European Commission in 2016.

The Netherlands, another historically skeptical country about Kosovo visa liberalization, has still not made a formal decision. Dutch representatives in the EU told Prishtina Insight that, based on the most rfecent report of the EU Commission, they will “assess whether Kosovo meets all European standards in a sustainable way”. 

“As far as the Netherlands is concerned, progress in the fight against organized crime and corruption are key conditions in that assessment”, said the Netherlands EU spokesperson, Melle van Dijk, on Wednesday. 

“Furthermore, we will have to discuss that assessment with our national parliament as well before a final decision is made”, he added. 

The EU Commission clarified for Prishtina Insight that its proposal for visa liberalization does not link it with ETIAS. 

“The 2018 Commission’s proposal for visa liberalization for Kosovo does not make any link to ETIAS. This will enter into force automatically for all visa-free countries,” a European Commission press officer, Andrea Masini, told Prishtina Insight.

The Council tied ETIAS to the visa-liberalization process for Qatar and Kuwait. 

Both Gulf countries received a positive answer for visa liberalization from the Council in June. 

According to the Council’s proposal, visa liberalization for the these countries should not apply until the effective start of ETIAS.

Kuwait and Qatar are important economic partners for the EU, in particular in the area of energy, the Council proposal, among other things, said. 

Kosovo citizens were disappointed on Thursday after unexpected new criteria were mentioned at a meeting of a EU working group on visa liberalization for Kosovo.

Thijs Reuten, a Dutch MEP, also tweeted his disappointment. 

“Deeply ashamed of the Dutch government and four others. After Kosovo fulfilling all requirements in 2018 + an extremely positive additional assessment upon Dutch request, they found a new excuse to postpone visa free travel for Kosovo”, he tweeted. 

 “France showing its real intentions again when it comes to keeping promises and playing by the rules. The last approximately 1 million Europeans in Western Balkan region without visa-free travel being used for internal politics, conveniently backed by The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Spain,” he added. 

Citizens of around 60 countries can travel visa-free in the EU.  ETIAS is expected to be operational by November 2023.


20/10/2022 - 12:54

20 October 2022 - 12:54

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.