EU to Allow Visa-Free Entry for Citizens of Kosovo With Serbian Passports
In April 2023, the European Parliament granted visa-free entry to the Schengen zone to citizens of Kosovo beginning January 1, 2024.
However, Kosovo citizens who possess passports issued by Serbian authorities, most of whom are Serbs, will not be able to travel to the Schengen area without a visa until they obtain valid and legal passports issued by Kosovo’s authorities.
Under the newly introduced visa rules, citizens of Kosovo will be able to explore the EU visa-free, allowing stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period.
In a recent development, the European Commission is proposing the removal of visa restrictions for Serbian residents living in Kosovo and holding Serbian passports.
The Commission stressed the removal of discriminatory practises, stating that individuals having Serbian passports issued by the Coordination Directorate of Serbia should be included in this exception. The aim is to extend visa-free travel to all citizens across the Western Balkans region within the Schengen countries.
European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said the proposal, which has to be approved by EU lawmakers and member states, would mean that “all citizens of the Western Balkans will be covered by a visa-free regime”.
The proposal comes as the European Union's concerted efforts to foster closer ties with Balkan nations, particularly in light of concerns surrounding competing influences from Russia and China within the region.”
The proposed visa-free access marks a significant step forward in facilitating greater mobility and interconnectedness among the citizens of Kosovo, the broader Western Balkans, and the EU.
Concerns Over Visa-Free Proposal
The Government of Kosovo has voiced concern regarding the European Commission's proposal to eliminate visa requirements for individuals holding Serbian passports within Kosovo's territory.
Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi expressed these concerns urging the EU to reconsider the proposal.
He highlighted the issue of lifting visas for Kosovo citizens holding Serbian passports, emphasizing that the passports issued by Serbia's Coordination Center suggest a jurisdictional claim over Kosovo's municipalities, which directly challenges Kosovo's sovereignty.
Moreover, Bislimi clarified that visa liberalisation for Kosovo should not exclude the Serbian community. He noted that they have the option to obtain passports issued by Kosovo itself, emphasising that the government has streamlined the process for Serbs in Kosovo to obtain these passports.
According to Bislim, citizens’ interest in obtaining a passport has recently increased, and “compared to last year, we have an increase of 29 percent”.
Failure to implement the EC proposal by 2024 would result in holders of Serbian passports in Kosovo being the sole group without the privilege of visa-free movement.
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