Immigration: Kosovo Outgoing PM Insists Council of Ministers Will Grant Kosovars with Visa-Free Entry to Schengen in December

Immigration: Kosovo Outgoing PM Insists Council of Ministers Will Grant Kosovars with Visa-Free Entry to Schengen in December

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The outgoing Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj has once again reiterated his claims that Kosovo citizens will be granted with the right to travel visa-free to and within Schengen as of December this year.

“I know that at the end of November there is a process, I do not want to go into details about this process because that is the nature of the work, but I know that in December we will be ready to receive the decision for liberalization. I expect Germany to lead this decision in December. I look forward to the formal decision of the Council of Ministers and the leaders of the member countries in December,” Haradinaj told to local media.

A key figure of the former Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1998-1999 war with Serb forces, Haradinaj’s coalition was listed 4th in the last elections that took place in the young European country in early October.  However, he took these elections as an argument that the political system in Kosovo is not corrupt at the levels some claim it to be.

A corrupt political system would hit elections worst, making them corrupted. If all the institutions participating in the elections have shown such integrity, it is an exaggeration in certain cases of the level of bad in Kosovo. I am not saying that there is no need for Kosovo to continue to fight crime, corruption, evil. But to keep rhetoric on the subject, when a country holds such credible elections when the difference in outcome is so small and everyone accepts the result, I think it has left without words the Europeans and everyone else,” he asserted.

Kosovo’s Much Sought After Visa Liberalization

The European Commission had launched a visa liberalization dialogue with Kosovo on January 19, 2012, and on June same year, it handed over a roadmap on visa liberalization to the Kosovo authorities. The roadmap consisted of a list of the reforms Kosovo had to implement in order to get visa liberalization, including the border/boundary and migration management.

Over the years, the Commission adopted four reports on the Kosovo visa dialogue, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and the last one in 2016, which also proposed visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens upon the fulfillment of the two last remaining benchmarks, ratification of demarcation with Montenegro and the fight of corruption and organized crime.

Almost two years later, amid tear-gas and violent protests, the Kosovo Parliament ratified the much sought after Agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro on March 21. Fighting of corruption and organized crime remained the only obstacle in the way of the youngest European country towards its struggle to achieve visa liberalization, as the last country in the region that remains isolated.

In July 2018, the European Commission finally gave the green light for visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens asserting Kosovo had met the two outstanding visa liberalization requirements, thus completing the fulfillment of all benchmarks set out in the Visa Liberalization Roadmap for Kosovo.

Later on August 39, 2018, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) supported Commission’s recommendation, approving the opening of inter-institutional negotiations on the completion of the process.

The European Parliament agreed on September 13, 2018, to open talks on the abolition of the visa regime for Kosovo citizens for the first time, reconfirmed its position on March 28, 2019, and then again in another vote in late  September 2019, it voted to start the talks with the EU Council.

The Council, however, has still not done so, mainly due to the opposition of a few EU members, including Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, which do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

While many high EU officials and politicians from the Member States have voiced their concerns that visa liberalization is being delayed without a reason, like Fajon, these EU members still think Kosovo does not qualify for liberalization, despite having met the criteria set.

After the 2014 refugee crisis in Europe, during which Kosovars were the main asylum seekers from countries listed as safe, the EU fears that a possible influx of asylum-seekers or illegal migrants from Kosovo may take place again.

Yet, a report published by SchengenVisaInfo shows that asylum seekers from Kosovo should no longer be a concern for the EU countries. In fact, there are 12 countries that already have a visa-free travel agreement with the EU, which even years after the agreements were reached, still file higher numbers of unfounded asylum applications, including Kosovo’s neighbors, Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

Editor’s Pick: The Timeline of the Long Road to EU Visa Liberalization for Kosovo

Kosovo Minister Points Fingers at France and the Netherlands

The Kosovo Minister for European Integrations Dhurata Hoxha had pointed fingers at France and the Netherlands, as the two main countries blocking Kosovo visa liberalization, in June this year.

The Minister, who has finally given up on her frequent statements that visa liberalization would happen “next month“, said in an interview for a local media that she is disappointed with the European Union, as the Council of Ministers have not yet given any concrete date on when the visa regime with Kosovo will be abolished.

We have already seen that some member states are hesitating, such as France and the Netherlands. To some extent, even Germany does not have a clear opinion, despite the fact that the Interior Minister [of Germany] has said ‘yes’ to visa liberalization for Kosovo,” Minister Hoxha said.

Later in September, during a visit in Kosovo, the German MP from the Christian Democratic Union party, Peter Beyer confirmed that Germany supports Kosovo visa liberalization, asserting that it is unjust for the newborn country to be the sole country in a region to which the Schengen member states apply the visa regime.

 



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