Brussels | Aug 30 (Tirana Echo) – The European Parliament Justice & Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) voted today in favor of starting negotiations with the European Council on granting Kosovo’s citizens a visa-free regime.
The Committee’s website stated the vote was on “entering into inter-institutional negotiations and on the composition of the negotiating team on Listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Kosovo*).”
The decision comes after Kosovo settled a border dispute with neighboring Montenegro and following the completion of a set of conditions imposed by Brussels on fighting organized crime and corruption.
Once approved by EU member states, Kosovo’s citizens would be able to travel freely within the EU’s Schengen area, a long awaited decision by its population of 2 million, who are the last citizens in the Western Balkans without a visa-free regime.
The decision was praised by Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci as a step forward towards a “long overdue final decision which will remove every obstacle to the free movement for our citizens in the Schengen area.”
A visa-free regime would mean the right to travel within the Schengen area made up of 26 European countries for up to 90 days. The Schengen area excludes Britain and Ireland, but allows travel to four non-EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
European Parliament Rapporteur on the issue Tanja Fajon said the final decision will end the isolation of Kosovo’s citizens.
“I am happy @EP_Justice just adopted the decision to enter into negotiations with the @EUCouncil on #visa liberalization for #Kosovo citizens. This is an important step to bring #Kosovo closer to Europe and to break the isolation. Well done and congratulations!” – wrote Fajon on Twitter following the vote.
However, EP Rapporteur for Kosovo Igor Soltes, warned there is still some work to be done before Kosovan people can move freely.
“First, the mandate must be confirmed at the plenary session by the European Parliament. Then the crucial vote will be at the European Council. I sincerely hope member states will follow the example of European Parliament and of the European Commission.” – said Soltes.
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