The Unfulfilled Promise of Kosovo Visa Liberalization
The latest edition of our Eastern Monitor series, authored by Jana Juzová, analyzes the state of the Visa liberalization of Kosovo.
Kosovo’s path towards visa liberalization started in 2012 when the European Commission submitted the Visa Liberalization Roadmap for Kosovo. This step was long awaited by the small country as all the other five Western Balkan states started the dialogue already in May and June 2008. At that time, it was still being decided inside EU member states whether they would recognize the newly declared state1 and it was clear that there is no consensus across the EU. As the united EU approach towards Kosovo proved to be a difficult and sensitive issue due to the concerns that opening visa dialogue would imply recognition, Kosovo was left out from the process.
The length of the visa liberalization process differed among the Western Balkan countries. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia progressed rather swiftly, and the dialogue was closed with the decision to lift the visa regime for these countries in late-2009. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina had to wait one year longer as their readiness and fulfilment of conditions was evaluated as insufficient in 2009. Kosovo, lagging behind the rest of the region, opened the dialog with the EU in 2012, at the same time as Georgia. While Georgian citizens already reached a successful end of the process and are allowed to travel to the EU without visa since March 2017, it is still uncertain when Kosovo will achieve this objective.
In comparison to other Western Balkan countries, Kosovo’s visa liberalization process has been much more demanding, including more conditions and obstacles encompassing more areas than was usual for visa policy.
The delay in Kosovo’s visa liberalization process was received with criticism both from Kosovo politicians and experts, particularly regarding the unresolved demarcation of border with Montenegro, which was seen as unjustified. It was brought to attention that resolution of border issues was in the past included only when the EU accession was on the table and not for the visa liberalization.
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