Kosovo awaits EU Visa-Liberalisation Roadmap

As EU and Kosovo launch dialogue on rule of law, Brussels says it will hand Pristina a visa-liberalization roadmap on June 14.

The European Union  will give Kosovo a so-called “roadmap” setting out the conditions it has to meet before its citizens can travel to Schengen member states without visas. As the European Commission and Kosovo launched a Dialogue on the Rule of Law on Wednesday, the Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, said the visa-liberalization process could now commence.

“It was a great day today for the relationship between Kosovo and the EU and it was a great day for Kosovo,” Fule said in Brussels.

“We started the Structured Dialogue on the Rule of Law and at the same time, in the presence of my colleague Cecilia Malmstrom, we have discussed the state of play on the Visa Roadmap. Everything is now set up for Cecilia to present the roadmap formally to Kosovo authorities later in June,” Fule added.

The flag of independent Kosovo

The EU set the ball rolling on visa liberalization with Kosovo back in January, after the country was deemed to have fulfilled a set of conditions. The roadmap now serves as an instrument for visas to be lifted on the country. Kosovo was left isolated after Europe lifted visa requirements for nationals of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 2009. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania followed suit in 2010. The European Commission, in its October 2011 progress report on Kosovo, said Pristina had achieved the necessary goals for visa talks to start, though many shortcomings remained in the area of the rule of law. The rule-of-law dialogue that commenced on Wednesday in Brussels, according to the Enlargement Commissioner, is designed to help Kosovo to address the challenges in this field, with the focus on the judiciary and the fight against organised crime and corruption.

“The Structured Dialogue is not a way around the accession process; it is not a substitute to the European aspirations of Kosovo.  It is a way how to get Kosovo even closer to the EU,” Fuele explained.

Political map of the Balkan Region - Kosovo

The launch of the rule-of-law dialogue was attended also by Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Hajredin Kuçi, Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi and Minister for European Integration Vlora Citaku. Kosovo ministers pledged to fulfil the necessary criteria.

“Kosovo will be a serious and good partner in the EU integration process. We will fulfil all our obligations. We want to thank the EU for the positive reply and the visa-liberalization roadmap, and we do hope that EU member states will support this process,” Kuci said.

European Integration Minister Citaku told reporters that the visa-liberalization roadmap is expected to be identical to the ones delivered to other countries of the Western Balkans, which are now potential candidates for EU membership. The EU Council of Ministers concluded last December that Kosovo citizens would benefit from the perspective of visa-free travel to Schengen member states once all conditions were met.

At the same time, the Council noted that the intention to launch a visa liberalization dialogue with Kosovo came “without prejudice to Member States’ positions on Kosovo’s status.” This was a reference to the stance of five EU states that have refused to recognise Kosovo’s independence in 2008, namely, Spain, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia.

Source: Balkan Insight