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:

“ESI has worked on this issue from 2009 when we published the first public appeal, written with former Ministers of the Interior Otto Schily (Germany) and Giuliano Amato (Italy), calling on the Commission to prepare a visa liberalisation roadmap, which was not being done at the time.”

“From 2009 to 2015, ESI continued to write and publish several papers on the issue. Later, ESI and many European civil society organisations focused on other issues. The reason behind this was that it looked hopeless and when something looks hopeless, you don’t spend your time on it.”

“Therefore, the question that needs to be asked is this: how do you move one country with what arguments from the blacklist to the whitelist? European interior ministers were ready to move Albania, Bosnia, Moldova and Georgia to the whitelist, but they are reluctant when it comes to Kosovo.”

“The question for Kosovo then is: what can you say to the French? What do you need to say to French parliamentarians? What do you need to say to the French Minister of the Interior or to French journalists? These questions lead to another question: Why and where are they wrong? They are not wrong on the problem, but they are wrong on where the problem lies. 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).