During Albania visit, Kosovo President defies EU

President of the Republic of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi (R) and his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta (L) inspect the honor guard of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) in Pristina, Kosovo, 11 October 2017. [Valderin Xhemaj/EPA/EFE]

The President of Kosovo is defying the EU by hinting Kosovars will get Albanian passports to be able to travel visa-free to the EU.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi on Wednesday (11 October) asked Tirana to smooth the way for Kosovans applying for Albanian citizenship, which would enable them to travel to Europe without visas.

“The European Union’s blocking strategy pushed us today to demand the (Albanian) president allow Kosovars to apply for dual citizenship in order to get the right to travel freely,” Thaçi said after meeting his counterpart Ilir Meta, saying the bloc had left Kosovo in “complete isolation”.

Kosovo is the last Balkan nation whose citizens require visas to travel into the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone.

But the EU made the matter conditional on Kosovo resolving a long-running border dispute with neighbouring Montenegro, which dates back to the 1990s when the former Yugoslavia collapsed in a series of wars.

Such an agreement is crucial for Kosovo’s bid to gain visa-free travel and for it to further integrate with the EU, which is a key goal for this tiny Balkan nation of 1.8 million, most of whom are ethnic Albanians.

In 2015, Kosovo reached a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro but the deal was blocked by opposition politicians at the parliament in Pristina, meaning it has never been ratified.

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Kosovo’s government collapsed yesterday (10 May) after it lost a confidence vote in parliament, a move expected to trigger a snap election after more than a year of political crisis in the tiny Balkan country.

But Thaçi’s request looked set to ruffle feathers in neighbouring Serbia, which still considers Kosovo to be its southern province and has never recognised Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008.

Serbia’s relationship with Tirana has also been strained by fears in Belgrade of a “Great Albania” – a nationalist project to unite all Albanians in one state, including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia and Serbia.

Serbia unnerved by Albanian talk of union with Kosovo

A statement about a potential union between Albania and Kosovo, by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, has angered officials in Belgrade, who have asked Brussels to take a stand on the issue. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

No elected Albanian official has ever publicly supported such a project.

Albania’s Meta confirmed Tirana had already received a number of citizenship applications from Kosovan nationals and stressed the need to “put an end to the isolation, not to say discrimination that Kosovo citizens are exposed to.”

“Of course, the solution is not in taking Albanian citizenship for all citizens of Kosovo… it is about unlocking all of Kosovo’s European perspective,” Meta said.

Thaçi recently published a furious editorial on EURACTIV.com, voicing his outrage at the Commission’s attitude towards “the Muslim majority countries” in the Western Balkans, accusing the EU executive of “Orwellian doublethink”.

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Last week the European Commission dealt another blow to the Western Balkans by promising an accession strategy for Montenegro and Serbia while neglecting the other four Balkan countries, Hashim Thaçi, the president of Kosovo, writes in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV.