Commission: Suspending visa-free travel for Albanians should not be decided lightly

File photo. A woman walks her dog past symbolic road signs leading to European cities in the center of Tirana, Albania, on 8 November 2010. [Armando Babani/EPA/EFE]

The European Commission said on Monday (3 June) it would assess a request by the Netherlands to suspend visa-free travel for Albanians, adding that such a decision should not be taken lightly.

Albania was granted visa-free travel to the borderless Schengen space in 2010. However, the country risks losing this hard-won advantage.

The decision comes after more than a month since a group of four Dutch MPs who initiated a motion to cancel temporarily visa-free traveling for Albanian nationals in the Schengen Zone, were backed by the Dutch Parliament.

The motion has been submitted in April by four MPs, due to concern of Albanians illegally staying in the Netherlands. Motion submitter and MP Van Toorenburg, had told to the plenary that there were six times more Albanians in the Netherlands than officially registered.

In a letter signed by the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the EU, Robert de Groot, the Dutch government asks the EU Commission to undertake such a step, in consultation with the other member states.

The Commission confirmed it had been notified, but added that the request would be examined thoroughly, and the decision would not be taken lightly.

“The Commission will now carefully assess the notification in line with the procedure and based on relevant date and relevant information, regarding the specific circumstances”, said Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud.

She explained that the next steps would be for the Commission to inform the Council and the Parliament.

“Of course, decisions to suspend visa-free travel cannot be taken lightly, and any steps leading towards triggering of the mechanism would be subject to very careful assessment and analysis”, she said, adding that the EU executive would present those to the Council and the Parliament.

In terms of timing, she said the Commission has to make its assessment one month after having received the notification, and this implementing act also needs to be approved by the Council.

Asked by EURACTIV if there had been a precedent with another country, Bertaud said that in her knowledge, this was the first time the Commission had received a notification of this kind.

Last week, the Commission recommended to member states to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The Dutch move seems to indicate that this would be a difficult decision, at least in the case of Albania.

Commission recommends opening accession talks with Albania, North Macedonia

The European Commission recommended on Wednesday (29 May) opening accession talks with two Western Balkan countries, Albania and North Macedonia, saying they had “embraced the opportunity and delivered on reforms”. But this will need to be approved by the member states.

“In …

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