ESI White List Visa Project – Exclusive Scorecard of Balkan Progress

22 May 2009
Young people, like these students in Bosnia, wait impatiently for visa-free travel to the EU

Young Bosnians: waiting for their politicians to open the door to visa free travel?

Dear friends of ESI,

This is a time for taking concrete decisions concerning visa free travel to the EU for the citizens of Western Balkan countries.

Next week, Monday, 25 May 2009, the Commission will discuss its newest assessment reports on the issue with EU member states' officials. For more detailed information on the assessments please look at our exclusive Scorecard of Schengen White List Conditions (22 May 2009).

These assessments conclude – based on the most thorough expert assessments ever undertaken in the fields of document security, border control, migration management and security – that Macedonia meets the conditions for visa-free travel, that Montenegro and Serbia meet most of the conditions for visa-free travel, and that Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania do not (yet) meet the conditions for visa free travel.

If EU member states follow the Commission's assessments and apply the strict conditionality they have themselves defined they will offer Macedonia visa-free travel. As for Montenegro and Serbia, the Commission and EU member states will need to weigh whether to reward the impressive recent progress made in both countries (particularly in recent months) or whether to withhold any concrete rewards until all conditions are actually met. A third option, preferable to a negative decision, might be to make one more final assessment in these two countries before the end of July.

Kosovo, the sixth Western Balkan state whose citizens are required to obtain a visa to travel to the EU, is not yet included in this process leading to visa liberalisation. It risks being left behind as an isolated enclave in the region. It is not clear why the EU would wish to forego such a powerful instrument to improve policing, border controls and the rule of law in Kosovo.

Olli Rehn, Gerald Knaus, and Alexandra Stiglmayer Toni Kitanovski

Olli Rehn, Gerald Knaus, Alex Stiglmayer discussing the Balkans

Showing the way: Macedonian music knows no borders

Understanding visa liberalisation – from A to Z

ESI analysts, led by senior analyst and visa project coordinator Alex Stiglmayer, and supported by Kristóf Gosztonyi have also produced a detailed glossary on visa liberalisation (Visa Roadmap A to Z). We are grateful to the Robert Bosch Stiftung for supporting this project.

This glossary explains all the key concepts and technical terms that appear in the visa roadmaps for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, making clear how far-reaching the reforms are that these states have to undertake to qualify for visa-free travel with the Schengen countries. It is evident that these reforms will be beneficial not only to the Balkan countries, but will also help protect the EU against crime and illegal immigration from all over the world.

In coming days we will make more information and analysis available on our website. In case of questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Many best wishes,

Gerald Knaus