Bosnia and Herzegovina risks losing visa-free status

  

The Commission has confirmed reports that citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an EU hopeful for which Brussels lifted visa requirements in November 2010, could again be subjected to the cumbersome procedure, due to the large number of asylum-seekers from this country.

Following reports in the local press that the EU might re-introduce visas for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michele Cercone, spokesperson of Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, confirmed that the EU executive was closely monitoring the increase of asylum-seekers.

The EU countries which have recently experienced increases are Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg, he said.

Visa liberalisation is one of the greatest achievements in the process of European integration for the Western Balkans countries and Commissioner Malmström is personally committed to upholding the visa liberalisation process, Cercone said.

Therefore, he said that she was very concerned about the increase in the number of unfounded asylum applications to the EU from nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina and some other Western Balkan countries.  

It should be clear that if some of the countries in the Western Balkans do not meet their commitments and do not properly and quickly address the concerns of EU member countries as regards the increasing number of unfounded asylum applications, the achievements of visa liberalisation might be put at risk, he stressed.

On the 20 September, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström sent a letter to the Ministers of the Interior from Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia, asking for them to inform the Commission on the practical measures they have put in place to address the increased number of asylum seekers in EU member states.

Commissioner Malmström hopes that the current situation will be addressed adequately and without delay and calls for the full support and engagement from Western Balkan countries in order to avoid that negative developments endanger this otherwise successful process. 

The forthcoming Justice and Home Affairs EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum in Ohrid (3-4 October) will provide an opportunity to discuss the current situation, Cercone said.

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