By Linda Karadaku
Albania and Serbia lifted visas on each other’s citizens on Tuesday (July 5th), in a step widely seen in the context of a more relaxed atmosphere and co-operation between the two countries.
Albania’s Foreign Ministry said the agreement — signed by the Albanian Deputy Foreign minister Selim Belortaja and Serb Ambassador in Tirana Miroljub Zaric — “is based on the principles of full reciprocity between the two states, the good will and the mutual co-operation.”
Albanians and Serbs can now visit cross each other’s boarders for no more then 90 days within 180 days, without visas.
In Albania, the agreement was seen as late, since both countries already have free movement within the Schengen zone.
“The fact that Albania and Serbia are the last ones in the list of the countries of the Western Balkans that allow their citizens to move without visas, makes the value of such an agreement less ‘shining’,” Albanian former diplomat Genc Mlloja told SETimes.
Mlloja says the two countries could not longer avoid such an agreement, however, “Albania, interested to boost tourism, has been liberalizing visas with Serbia for years now, the same it has done with several other countries during the summer tourist season.”
Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry said it welcomes any kind of agreement “in favour of the normalisation and strengthening of the inter-state relations between the neighboring countries in the Balkans.”
“Kosovo institutions welcome any agreement that serves the free movement of citizens and exchange of trade and ideas between the people in the Balkans and as such, it is a direct contribution to the stability in our region,” Kosovo Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi told SETimes.
Mlloja agrees. “There is no doubt that the value of this agreement will be reflected in all fields of the bilateral relations between Albania and Serbia, but the ones to benefit more will be the Albanians of the Preshevo Valley and Bujanoc, who were forced to go to Belgrade to get the visas to enter Albania.”