Pristina – ESI at online conference on visa regimes in the Western Balkans

20 September 2021
Video: The Balkan Forum

ESI’s Gerald Knaus was invited to participate in an online conference on “Visa Regimes No More: Time To Put People First” organised by The Balkan Forum.

Gerald showed how visa regimes have been harming businesses, breaking family ties, and preventing the freedom of movement within the Western Balkans, as well as between the region and the EU.

In his presentation, Gerald said:

“Yes, I have worked on this issue from 2009 when we published the first letter, calling on the Commission to prepare a visa liberalisation roadmap, which it was not prepared at that time, together with Otto Schily and Giuliano Amato, the two former interior ministers. Since 2009 we wrote a lot of papers until 2015 and then basically the issue dropped off our agenda as much as off the agenda of, I think a lot of European civil society. Why? Because it looked hopeless and if it looks hopeless, you don’t spend your time on it, I mean this is a very basic principle of human motivation. How do you move one country with what arguments from the blacklist to the whitelist? Clearly European interior ministers were ready to lift/move Albania there, were ready to move Bosnia there, were ready to move Ukraine there, were ready to move Moldova and Georgia there and are reluctant on Kosovo.”

“So, the question then is, for Kosovo, what can you say to the French? What do you need to tell French parliamentarians? What do you need to tell the French Minister of the Interior or French journalists? Why/Where are they wrong? They are not wrong on the problem; they are wrong on where the problem lie. The problem does not lie in Kosovo, it lies in France.”

Other discussants were Vlora Çitaku (former ambassador of Kosovo to USA) Sabina Čudić (Member of Parliament, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Dukagjin Gorani (former Senior Political Advisor to the Office of Prime Minister), and Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (MEP, EP Standing Rapporteur for Kosovo).

The panel was moderated by Franziska Tschinderle (Austrian journalist with a focus in the Western Balkans).