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07 Jun 2018

EU Rapporteur: Kosovo visa liberalization two years late

Igor SoltesThe rapporteur for Kosovo at the European Parliament, Igor Soltes, has visited Kosovo in order to gather data on Kosovo’s institutions for his report on Kosovo’s progress regarding visa liberalization to the European Parliament, during which visit he has met with some of the Kosovo leaders.

Throughout his visit, the EU delegate has reiterated that Kosovo has lost its chance to get visa liberalization two years ago alongside with Ukraine and Georgia, because of the delay of the ratification of border demarcation agreement with Montenegro.

“We are in Kosovo to gather as much data as possible from the leaders of the institutions, in order to report to the European Parliament,” Soltes said to the media after a meeting with the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci.

He also said that the European Union cannot be blamed for the delay in the lifting of the visa regime, since Kosovo should have concluded the process two years ago.

Soltes hopeful about the lifting of visa regime

Whereas on Wednesday, EU Rapporteur Soltes met with the Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj, who told him that Kosovo has fulfilled all visa liberalization criteria, and that this is the last moment to end, what he called, the unjust isolation.

“It is the last moment for Kosovo citizens to enjoy visa-free regime and end this unjust isolation,” Hoxhaj said.

During his stay in Kosovo, Soltes also commented the promises of Kosovo leaders that visa liberalization will happen by the end of 2018, saying that he hopes such a thing will happen and that he is doing his best for Kosovo, what will further be seen in his report.

“The expectations are high, but as you know, this does not depend on the European Parliament. Honestly, I hope that (visa liberalization) really happen by the end of this year,” said Soltes.

On early February the EU Parliament Rapporteur on Kosovo Igor Soltes had 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.

Corruption cases block Kosovo’s visa aspirations

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 pledge to achieve visa liberalization by year’s end

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”. Whereas, on early April the President of Kosovo, former-PM Hashim Thaci called on the European Union to treat Kosovo as equal on its path to membership in the bloc, and lift the visa regime for Kosovo citizens.

At the beginning of May, during a meeting of the Kosovo Minister of European Integration Dhurata Hoxha with the Head of the EU Office in Kosovo and the EU Special Representative, Nataliya Apostolova, the latter said that no date can be given when the visa regime will be lifted for Kosovo citizens. Apostolova said so just after Minister Hoxha claimed that on next 9th of May Kosovo citizens will be able to freely move across Europe, at the same meeting.

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