Kosovo citizens with passports issued by authorities in Serbia will not benefit from the latest EU decision liberalizing visas for the country.
After a more than 12-year process, the European Parliament on Tuesday approved the decision that enables citizens of Kosovo to travel without visas to the so-called Schengen zone from January 1, 2024.
But Kosovo citizens who possess passports issued by Serbian authorities, most of whom are Serbs, will not be able to travel with those documents until they obtain valid and legal passports issued by Kosovo’s authorities.
EU Parliamentarian Thijs Reuten on Wednesday warned that the EU decision for visa free travel for Kosovo applies only to citizens with passports issued by Kosovo authorities.
“The legislation is clear, it’s about passports issued by Kosovo authorities … Serbs living in Serbia already enjoy visa-free travel, so I think it’s very carefully formulated in the regulation and that is what it is, nothing more, nothing less,” Reuten stated.
Deputy Prime minister of Kosovo Besnik Bislimi who was present at the signing ceremony on Wednesday stated that the government will do everything to ensure that by January 1, 2024, citizens are equipped with valid Kosovo passports.
“These [Kosovo Serb] citizens that have passports issued in Belgrade will hopefully use this period of eight months to acquire regular Kosovo passports so that they can also enjoy the benefits of the decision,” Bislimi declared.
Citizens of Serbia with addresses of residence in Kosovo have passports issued by the coordinating Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in Belgrade. But their address in Kosovo will disable them from traveling without a visa in the Schengen zone.
Many Kosovo Serbs that do not accept Kosovo citizenship therefore also have no valid documents that would enable them to travel freely in the EU.
Serbia was granted a visa-free regime with the EU in 2009. Since then, the issue of passports to Serbs residing in Kosovo has been done by the Coordinating Directorate of the Serbian Ministry of Interior. Kosovo considers these passports invalid.
The new visa rules for Kosovo will enable its citizens to travel to the EU without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day span.
The European Commission since 2018 confirmed several times that Kosovo had met all the conditions for visa liberalization, but it was constantly delayed.
The Commission started the visa liberalization dialogue with Kosovo in January, 2012.
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