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EU Visas and the Western Balkans
EU Visas and the Western Balkans
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
War & Peace: Reviving Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia
War & Peace: Reviving Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia
Report 168 / Europe & Central Asia

EU Visas and the Western Balkans

The EU’s present visa regime with the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia-Montenegro including Kosovo) is fostering resentment, inhibiting progress on trade, business, education and more open civil societies, and as a result contributing negatively to regional stability.

Executive Summary

The EU’s present visa regime with the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia-Montenegro including Kosovo) is fostering resentment, inhibiting progress on trade, business, education and more open civil societies, and as a result contributing negatively to regional stability. Full visa liberalisation for all will probably have to wait until the Balkan states are much closer to EU membership. But selective liberalisation for certain identified groups, and visa facilitation for all applicants – involving a simplified, speedier, less painful process – would go a long way toward showing governments and citizens alike that reforms do pay off.

Immigration in general is a serious concern within the EU, as demonstrated by the widespread growth in support for far right and xenophobic political parties. The German visas scandal which broke early in 2005 and the riots in French cities in recent weeks have not made things easier. But the EU committed itself to a more liberal visa regime for the Western Balkan countries at the Thessaloniki summit in 2003, and it is not implementing that commitment, even though it has started negotiations on visa facilitation with Russia, Ukraine and China. This sends an unfortunate message about its priorities. Internal security dominates thinking to the detriment of practical policy, with future member states’ citizens being marginalised by inflexible visa restrictions, in the short term compromising their freedom to travel and in the longer term exacerbating regional insecurity.

The present visa barriers are a source of deep resentment to honest travellers, undermine the credibility of the states of the region (as their citizens seek passports – legally or not – from more favoured jurisdictions), and function less as an obstacle than an opportunity for organised crime and corruption in the EU and the region. The present system restricts mainly those who should be allowed to benefit from the EU’s proximity, with the majority being made to pay for a criminal minority. The efforts of the governments in the region to reform are still on shaky ground because their citizens have seen few tangible rewards. It is time to offer some.

Belgrade/Pristina/Sarajevo/Skopje/Brussels, 29 November 2005

War & Peace: Reviving Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia

This week on War & Peace, Crisis Group’s Balkan expert Marko Prelec joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope to discuss why the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue has stalled, why the status quo is untenable and how to change it.

S2 E11: Reviving Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia

Thirteen years after Kosovo broke away from Serbia to become de facto independent, political inertia continues to stall the largely European-driven dialogue process aimed at reaching an understanding between the two parties and thus securing lasting stability for the region. On the back of our recently published report, “Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue”, Crisis Group’s Balkans expert Marko Prelec joins Olga and Hugh to examine why that is. 

Taking a step back from the state of talks today, Marko lays out the historical context for the current impasse, and what the obstacles have been to changing the uneasy status quo. Beyond leaving the door wide open for the dispute to escalate, Kosovo’s unresolved status has tainted domestic political discourse and continues to bar both it and Serbia from accessing the European Union and otherwise participating in the international community.

Failure to breathe new life into talks also comes at a human cost, he explains, having met people on both sides whose lives are curtailed by mutual non-recognition. Does the new year bear any signs that Pristina and Belgrade are willing to make the compromises necessary to resolve their dispute?

Tune in to find out!

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, read our new report Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.