European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström launched Thursday a visa liberalisation dialogue with Kosovo in Pristina.
The aim of this dialogue is to eventually lift the visa obligation for citizens of Kosovo. This will only be possible, however, once the Government of Kosovo has implemented substantial reforms in key areas such as the security of travel documents; border, migration and asylum management; public order and security issues (notably the fight against organised crime and corruption) and fundamental rights issues related to the freedom of movement.
“Our commitment to visa liberalisation for the citizens of Kosovo is real, and I am very pleased that we can now start making concrete progress towards this goal. I know how important visa free travel is to the citizens of Kosovo and I’m happy that we’ve now set the ball rolling. Whether and how soon citizens obtain the privilege of visa-free travel will nevertheless depend entirely on the Government of Kosovo’s continuing efforts to implement reforms in the rule of law area and on concrete progress made on the ground,” said Cecilia Malmström.
In the past, the EU launched visa liberalisation dialogues with five Western Balkans countries in order to allow their citizens to travel to the EU without a visa. Following an assessment on the progress made by these countries in implementing major reforms, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia joined the EU’s visa-free regime in December 2009 and Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in November 2010.
To launch the visa liberalisation dialogue with Kosovo, Commissioner Malmström held bilateral meetings today with Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Hajredin Kuçi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Local Government Administration Slobodan Petrović, Minister of Interior Bajram Rexhepi and Minister of European Integration, Vlora Çitaku.
During her stay in Kosovo (19-20 January), Commissioner Malmström will also meet with the Head of the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), Xavier Bout de Marnhac, and with NGO and think tank representatives and academics.
In Pristina, she will visit the Centre for Protection of Victims and Prevention of Trafficking in Human, a non-profit organisation providing social and legal assistance, temporary safe accommodation, education and basic vocational skills to victims and potential victims of trafficking.
Commissioner Malmström will also visit the “Selman Riza” school in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, which recently integrated 42 children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities who had not been schooled for several years.