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04 Dec 2018

Commissioner Hahn: 2020 Is a Realistic Date for Kosovo Visa Liberalization

Johannes HahnThe European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, has extinguished the hopes of Kosovo citizens for visa liberalization in 2019 during a visit he paid to the country.

During his one-day visit in the capital of Prishtina, Commissioner Hahn met the Kosovo leaders, President Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, to discuss with them the 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina imposed lately by the government of Kosovo.

During a special conference for journalists Hahn was asked why visa liberalization for the Schengen Area is being delayed even after Kosovo met all the criteria. He responded by comparing the situation with that of Ukraine and Georgia.

“If we compare the situation with Ukraine and Georgia, it took them a year and a half to get to visa liberalization… We are working hard, but that is not a thing that can be done in a day, and it is in the interest of everybody that all countries and citizens in Europe are equal,” Hahn explained.

The EU-Ukraine Visa Liberalization Dialogue was launched on 29 October 2008, while the latter became a Schengen visa-exempt country on 11 June 2017. The EU-Georgia Visa Liberalization Dialogue was launched on 4 June 2012, and Georgia became visa-exempt on March 28, 2017.

Commissioner Hahn was also asked by journalists whether Kosovo would have visa liberalization by 2020, to which he responded with positivity.

“And now (visa liberalization issue) is within the European Council, and the European Council is usually the one where it takes most of the time. So, I am pretty confident that the date you have mentioned is a realistic one, 2020. Maybe earlier but don’t keep me hostage on this,” he said.

Reportedly, during the meeting with the EU commissioner, Kosovo Prime Minister Haradinaj stated that he has hoped Kosovo would get visa liberalization within December this year.

“We hoped that we will receive good news on Kosovo visa liberalization before Christmas”, Haradinaj is quoted to have said.

Kosovo Protesters “Impose” Visa on Commissioner Hahn

Before the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn entered the Kosovo government building, activists set a sign at the entrance of the government in protest for delayed visa liberalization.

“Welcome to Kosovo, Mr. Hahn. We apply reciprocity in Kosovo, so you need a visa to enter Kosovo. For visa you need about 45 different documents and 35 euros (visa fee),” the sign read.

The activity was organized by the former Drenas municipal assembly member Xhavit Drenori to express the dissatisfaction of Kosovo citizens for still being unable to travel to the Schengen Area visa-free.

The European Parliament approved visa talks with Kosovo on September 13. Since then, Kosovo visa liberalization has not been in the EU agenda, thus causing impatience among Kosovo citizens and leader. The latter have accused the EU for derogation of Kosovo in the issue of visa liberalization.

EU leaders have also demanded visa liberalization for Kosovo as well. The Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and Parliament’s Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister said recently that Kosovo citizens deserve visa liberalization, since their institutions worked hard to fulfill all criteria. Whereas, the rapporteur for Kosovo in the European Parliament Igor Soltes, warned that another postponement of visa liberalization for Kosovo may cause destabilization due to lack of trust between both parties.

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