Members of the European Parliament widely supported a proposal by the European Commission to exempt visas Kosovan citizens from requiring visas to travel to the bloc, even though the country is still not recognized by five states of the Union.
The deputies of the Committee on Home Affairs approved the proposal by 30 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 abstentions. The issue will now be taken up by European Council, which is comprised of the leaders of the member states.
Should the visa waiver be approved at the end of the legislative process, Kosovar citizens with a biometric passport will no longer need a visa to travel to EU countries (except Ireland and the United Kingdom) or in countries associated with the Schengen area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) for stays of up to 90 days.
EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos welcomed the broad support shown by MEPs on Wednesday morning. Kosovo has made great progress over the last two years in meeting the last two requirements for visa liberalization, he said recently, referring to the issue of border delimitation and the question of the fight against organised crime and corruption.
“I hope to see the moment when the whole of the Western Balkans will be visa-free,” he said on Twitter. This exemption has already existed for nearly eight years for the citizens of Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Further east, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine are also under the visa free travel regime.
For their part, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic continue to meet under the aegis of the head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini to normalise relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
The European Union is still divided over of Kosovo’s independence, which has been rejected by five of its member states (Spain, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia), nevertheless, Brussels has been working on brokering improved relations between Kosovo and Serbia as a first step towards the both country’s eventually joining the the EU.