The European Commission said on Wednesday (17 July) that Kosovo has met the remaining benchmarks to win visa liberalisation with the EU that other Western Balkan countries already enjoy.
But the proposal still needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of all 28 member states, some of which remain sceptical about Kosovo’s rule of law and fight against crime and may not be keen to approve the liberalisation before the European elections in May next year.
“Today, the Commission has confirmed that Kosovo has met the two outstanding visa liberalisation requirements on the ratification of the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and a strengthened track record in the fight against crime and corruption, thus fulfilling all benchmarks set out in the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap,” a Commission statement said.
Visa Liberalisation: Today, the @EU_Commission has confirmed that ??#Kosovo has met the 2 outstanding visa liberalisation requirements? https://t.co/6jtyIDSFr1 We now encourage the @Europarl_EN & the @EUCouncil to move forward on the proposal. pic.twitter.com/mnWGPjFhg6
— EU NEAR?? (@eu_near) July 18, 2018
Kosovar Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli called the Commission’s decision “a historic moment for Kosovo. This step towards visa liberalisation is a test for EU leaders and for Kosovo’s European future,” he said, according to Beta news agency.
The Commission said it would “continue to monitor the implementation of all requirements set out in the visa liberalisation roadmap”.
The EU executive opened a dialogue on visa liberalisation with Kosovo in 2012 and gave a conditional recommendation to scrap visas for Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine in April 2016. The two former Soviet republics gained visa-free status a year later.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but five EU countries, as well as Serbia and Russia, refuse to recognise it (Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania).
Of the six Western Balkan countries that want to join the EU, Kosovo and Bosnia have made the least progress.
Kosovo signed an association agreement with the EU in 2015 but is not yet a formal candidate for accession. Montenegro and Serbia are already negotiating for membership, while the Commission recommended opening talks with Albania and Macedonia earlier this year.