Rewarding the countries of southeastern Europe for regional cooperation and anti- corruption efforts: EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini, at a meeting in the Croatian capital Zagreb with ministers from the region, was keen to show how it can benefit. The European Union clinched visa deals this week with four states.
Frattini said: “It is also in my view a first step for a free travel regime for the citizens in the region of the Western Balkans”.
Visas will be free for students, some businessmen and journalists, a Commission official said. This will be once the deals with Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia are ratified — by the end of this year, if all goes according to plan.
Visa prices for all other citizens of these countries will stay at 35 euros, even though the EU has raised prices for most countries to 60 euros. The bloc hopes to conclude a similar deal with Serbia soon.
In return for easier visas, the Balkan states have pledged to take back citizens staying illegally in EU countries, as well as illegal migrants from other states if they have granted them visas or residency permits.
Frattini stressed cooperation was important also in view of the high incidence of smuggling in the region.