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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Visa, une ouverture vers les Balkans

by Jean-Arnault Dérens

VISA Regulation: The EU Opens Up to the Balkans

Translated Monday 15 June 2009, by Jonathan Pierrel

Early June, the European Commission announced that it will favour the abolition of visa regulation for citizens from Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. The European council should ratify the decision on June 16 and 17. This new measure could be implemented as soon as the beginning of next year.

While the prospect of an integration of the Western Balkan States seems quite dim, because of the opposition by Germany, in particular, to any new extension, this measure is impatiently expected by all the citizens of the countries concerned. At the moment, a Serb citizen can freely travel only to Bosnia, Croatia, and Macedonia. Even neighbouring countries, such as Romania or Bulgaria, demand visas since they have joined the European Union in 2007. “Yet, travelling is a basic liberty of which we are currently deprived,” think many Serbs who often find the visa procedure and the long queues outside the embassies “humiliating.”

It is well remembered that a passport from the Former Yugoslavia was once “one of the best of the world,” which allowed free travel almost everywhere. That time is in the past, but the removal of the visa regulation now appears as the only concrete gesture that the European Union can do to demonstrate its willingness to open up to the Balkan countries. The measure is likely to make people jealous, since at the moment Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania [1], and Kosovo are not included.

[1Translator’s note: The inclusion of Albania in contradictory categories, here and at the beginning of the article, was in the original French version. We are unsure which is correct.

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