The prospect of free access across EU borders has come a step closer for people from Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
The three Balkan states have already been promised EU membership eventually, so the European Commission has proposed lifting visa requirements by January next year. It also hopes the same is done for Albania and Bosnia soon after. The EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Ollie Rehn, said: “The citizens of these countries will be able to visit family and friends in the European Union, as well as spending their holidays here without having to undergo lengthy visa procedures. In a nutshell, this will mean a further Europeanisation of the civil societies in the Western Balkans.” Visa-free EU travel for the Western Balkans is central to policy aimed at promoting stability in the region. Macedonia has already reached EU entry standards, and if Serbia and Montenegro do the same by the time EU states approve the proposal, they will get the same deal. Albania and Bosnia have to step up the fight against organised crime and corruption and tighten procedures on how passports are delivered before they will get the concession. Citizens of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia last year, are not included in the proposal.