Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/western Balkans : Green Light for Visa Facilitation Negotiations

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/western Balkans : Green Light for Visa Facilitation Negotiations

Article excerpt

Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini will now start negotiations with all western Balkan countries for a visa facilitation agreement. A provisional first meeting may take place as soon as on 30 November in Brussels. Negotiations could possibly be concluded before the end of June 2007.

On 13 November, the Council of Ministers gave the European Commission a mandate to negotiate visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The Commission will also negotiate a visa facilitation agreement with Albania, with which the EU already has a readmission agreement.

Visa facilitation agreements with the EU are made conditional on a country first signing readmission agreements. Visa facilitation with the western Balkans, also applicable to Norway and Iceland, will apply to all EU countries, except the non-Schengen countries, the UK and Ireland.

For Frattini and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, the negotiating mandate is "really good news" for citizens in the region and a "tangible proof" of what Europe can offer. "This step reflects the commitment by the EU to promoting people-to-people contacts between the western Balkans and the Union," added the two commissioners.

Ordinary people, though, may have longer to wait before they can travel to the EU freely. Currently, negotiations aim at visa facilitation not for all citizens, but only for students, experts, scientists, researchers, civil servants and diplomats as well as business persons. …

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