Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, 01 September 2021. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Kosovo Deplores European Parliament’s Vote to Provide Visa Free Travel to Serb Citizens with Serbian Passports

Despite the Kosovo Government's objections, an European Parliament committee approved a proposal supporting visa liberalization for Kosovo Serbs with passports issued by the parallel institutions.The decision could be adopted before June's EU elections.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs approved on Tuesday its report on the liberalization of visas for holders of Serbian passports issued by the parallel institutions in Kosovo.

This report, compiled by the Slovenian MEP Matjaz Nemec was approved with 34 votes in favor, 7 against and 12 abstentions. 

The issue will now be voted on by the full house during the 22-25 April plenary session, EP said.

Nemec stated that extending EU visa liberalization to Serbian residents of Kosovo is important to prevent discrimination against these citizens, who risk being treated differently than other residents of the Western Balkans.

“This technical decision is not an attempt to resolve the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, but a pragmatic solution to ensure equal treatment. I hope that it can be speedily adopted before the EU elections of 6-9 June”, the rapporteur added.

Klisman Kadiu, an adviser to Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi, said that Kosovo government regrets today’s vote which “does not reflect the reality of the right to visa free travel for Kosovo Serbs”.

“Our citizens from the Serb community are continuing to take documents of our state with a high interest and we call on them to do so… We stand in full readiness and capacities to fulfill their demands,” Kadiu said.

“We reiterate that illegal passports issued by Serbia violate Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and therefore they cannot be recognised or be valid travel documents,” he added.

So-called Serbian parallel structures in Kosovo are a network of Belgrade-run and funded institutions functioning simultaneously with Kosovo official institutions. 

Tuesday’s vote marks a step towards the decision to waive visas for Serbian passport holders. These passports are issued by the Coordinating Directorate in Belgrade, which works within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia.

The liberalization of visas for citizens of Kosovo who possess biometric passports entered into force on January 1 of this year.

However, in mid-November last year, the European Commission proposed a change in the visa liberalization rules for Serbia to include holders of passports issued by the parallel institutions.

Kosovo’s government and a number of civil society organizations objected, arguing that recognising documents issued by parallel institutions would be a violation of Kosovo’s sovereignty and discourage Serb integration.

In response, 16 NGOs from the Serb community in Kosovo welcomed the European Commission proposal, saying it would “greatly improve the lives of Kosovo Serbs”. The attempt to block it was “symptomatic of a growing divide between the communities and continually shrinking space for any kind of social dialogue, including among the most progressive parts of society”, they said.

09/04/2024 - 18:06

09 April 2024 - 18:06

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.