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09 May 2018

Apostolova gainsays Minister Hoxha’s statements on Kosovo visa liberalization date

Nataliya ApostolovaThe Head of the EU Office in Kosovo and the EU Special Representative, Nataliya Apostolova, has refused to give any date on visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens, highlighting the need for Kosovo institutions to continue working against organized crime and corruption.

Apostolova said so during the opening ceremony of the Education Fair with EU Member States in Pristina organized in honor of the Day of Europe, after the Kosovo Minister of European Integration Dhurata Hoxha said that on next 9th of May Kosovo citizens will be able to freely move across Europe.

“The decision on free visa-free travel will be taken by member states, so we cannot talk on their behalf. However, I encourage Kosovo institutions to continue working on the fight against organized crime and corruption, and in the empowering of institutions and the rule of law. All this will help member countries make a positive decision,” Apostolova said.

Whereas, the Kosovo Minister of Integrations Dhurata Hoxha said that the Ministry she leads and the Kosovo government are fully committed in doing their job towards European Integration, once again reiterating that Kosovo citizens will soon be moving through Europe without visas.

“I also want to say we hope that by the end of this year our citizens will be able to move freely. But I still believe that 9th of May next year will be a year of free movement for our citizens and for our students,” Hoxha said.

Dhurata Hoxha

Kosovo leaders pledge to achieve visa liberalization by year’s end

Kosovo leaders have been promising visa liberalization to their citizens for a few years now. After the Kosovo Parliament ratified the much sought after Agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro on March 21, fighting of corruption and organized crime stands in the way of the youngest European country towards its struggle to achieve visa liberalization, as the last country in the region that remains isolated.

Though the former PM and current president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci declared days after the ratification of this agreement that Kosovo has delivered all the criteria for the visa liberalization, the last criterion that has to do with corruption still remains unfulfilled.

Kosovo leaders, including PM Ramush Haradinaj and his cabinet have promised that visa liberalization would happen as soon as possible, previously “before summer” and now “at the end of the year”.

EU rapporteur: Kosovo has lost the visa train

While Kosovo leaders keep claiming that Kosovo will sign a visa free regime with the Schengen Area before the year ends, on early February the EU Parliament Rapporteur on Kosovo Igor Soltes stated during an interview with a Kosovo online media that the visa-regime for Kosovo nationals would not be lifted this year, or anytime soon.

“My predecessor Ulrike Lunacek… insisted on ratifying the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro as soon as possible. Her advice was not listened to. Kosovo is now off the visa train. This has been a missed opportunity, with Kosovo’s citizens paying the price.” Soltes said, reiterating that if the border deal with Montenegro had been approved on time, Kosovo would get visa liberalization at the same time with Georgia and Ukraine.

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