Report 168 / Europe & Central Asia 29 November 2005 1 minutes 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. Share Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin Whatsapp Save Print Also available in Français Français English 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 Related Tags Albania Bosnia And Herzegovina North Macedonia Kosovo More for you Commentary / Europe & Central Asia The Dangers of Albania's Disputed Election Op-Ed / Europe & Central Asia Albania: Pan Albanianism: Myth or Threat to Balkan Stability?