European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström handed over the road-map for visa liberalization to the Kosovo government on Thursday.
The document sets out a comprehensive list of reforms that Kosovo will be requested to implement to fulfill requirements related to the freedom of movement, such as reintegration and readmission, document security, border and migration management, the fight against organized crime and corruption and fundamental rights. The pace of the visa dialogue will depend on the Kosovo government's progress in fulfilling these requirements.
"I am particularly pleased to be able to present this eagerly anticipated document to the Kosovo government," Malmström said.
Presentation of the document brings the citizens of Kosovo a step closer to visa-free travel. The road-map to visa liberalization sets out reforms that the Kosovo government will need to implement to create a secure environment for visa-free travel.
She noted that "whether and how soon visa-free travel becomes a reality depends on the Kosovo government's commitment to implementing these difficult reforms on the ground." She pledged the European Commission's assistance to the Kosovo authorities in their efforts.
In the past, the EU launched visa liberalization dialogues with five Western Balkan countries to allow their citizens to travel to the EU without visas. Following an assessment on the progress made by these countries in implementing major reforms, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia joined the EU's visa-free regime in December 2009, while Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina joined in November 2010.
On the margins of the handover ceremony, Malmström met Kosovo's Minister for European Integration Vlora Çitaku, Internal Affairs Minister Bajram Rexhepi, and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration Lutfi Haziri.
The state of play of the visa roadmap was discussed at the launch of the Structured Dialogue on the Rule of Law with Kosovo by Commissioner for Enlargement Štefan Füle and Commissioner Malmström with Kosovo representatives on May 30 in Brussels.
On Thursday, the European Commission and the Kosovo government also held a first senior officials' meeting to discuss next steps in the visa dialogue with Kosovo. The government will now be requested to present a comprehensive overview of legislation and recent reforms in the areas covered by the visa road-map.
The Commission has said that it will continue to monitor progress by Kosovo in fulfilling the benchmarks of the road-map, including by drafting regular reports.
by RTT Staff Writer
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