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13 Jul 2018

Kosovo Assembly Chairman: Recommendation on visa liberalization to be given next week – Merkel not so optimistic

Kosovo to benefit from visa-free travel in Schengen AreaThe Chairman of the Assembly of Kosovo has shown his belief that Kosovo citizens will be moving freely throughout the Schengen Area until the end of the year. During an interview for the Kosovo Public Television, Chairman Kadri Veseli said that he expects the European Commission to give a positive recommendation on Kosovo visa liberalization next week.

“Our citizens expect that we will soon have a positive recommendation by the European Union. We expect a positive recommendation next week. At the same time we are in contact with our friends, the friends of Kosovo which are pro visa liberalization,” Veseli said, adding that the government is working intensively for the citizens of Kosovo to be able to freely travel in the Schengen Area by the end of the year.

“Kosovo has fulfilled all of the criteria,” he said among others, after he recently carried a few diplomatic visits lobbying for a positive decision of the EU institutions on visa liberalization.

Merkel not very optimistic on Kosovo’s visa liberalization

Merkel not very optimistic on Kosovo's visa liberalization

Despite of the claims by the Kosovo Assembly chairman, as well as the statements by the Kosovo leaders given for years now, that Kosovo will “soon” get visa liberalization, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not view the issue with much optimism.

In a meeting of her with the Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj during the West Balkan Summit in London held last week, she did not show much optimism on Kosovo citizens getting visa liberalization soon.

PM Haradinaj who revealed what he discussed with the EU leaders in the London upon his return in Pristina, claims that Germany was among the EU skeptic countries on adapting an agreement on visa-free regime with Kosovo. According to PM Haradinaj, Merkel told him that there is still much work needed to be done for Kosovo to finalize visa liberalization process.

Kosovo’s years-long struggle towards visa liberalization

The European Commission had launched a visa liberalization dialogue with Kosovo on January 19, 2012, and on June same year, it handed over a roadmap on visa liberalization to the Kosovo authorities. The roadmap consisted of a list of the reforms Kosovo had to implement in order to get visa liberalization, including the border/boundary and migration management.

Over the years, the Commission adapted four reports on the Kosovo visa dialogue, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and the last one in 2016, which also proposed visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens upon the fulfillment of the two last remaining benchmark, ratification of demarcation with Montenegro and the fight of corruption and organized crime.

Almost two years later, amid tear-gas and violent protests, the Kosovo Parliament ratified the much sought after Agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro on March 21. Fighting of corruption and organized crime remains the only obstacle 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.

The benchmarks did not stop the Kosovo leaders to promise to Kosovo citizens that visa liberalization would happen “within the next months”, for years. Days after the ratification of the demarcation agreement, the President of Kosovo himself, declared that Kosovo had delivered all criteria for visa liberalization, despite of the European leaders insisting that the country has a lot more to do in the fight against corruption and organized crime. Later on, 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.

In early 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 could be given when the visa regime will be lifted for Kosovo citizens. Apostolova gave such statements after Minister Hoxha claimed that on next year on May 9th, Kosovo citizens would be able to freely move across Europe.

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