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Balkan states welcome visa-free travel

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Balkan states welcome visa-free travel


Three Balkan states have moved a step closer to Europe, with the end of visa restrictions for foreign travel. The Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic made a symbolic visit to the Hungarian border as 18 years of visa requirements were lifted at midnight. Serbia and neighbours Montenegro and Macedonia said it marked an end to years of isolation in the region.

“This is really great news for the people of Serbia,” said Jeremic. “Tonight is a great night, tonight we are again where we were 20 years ago, that is to feel like we are a part of Europe.”

Many people said it felt like a liberation, as Belgrade partied long into the night. Soon after, a group of 50 took off for a week-long tour of western European capitals. First it was to Brussels, then it is on to Rome, Berlin and Paris. They will enjoy two days in each city.

For 40 years, the old Yugoslavia was the only communist country to allow its people unrestricted foreign travel. But visas were imposed during the country’s bloody breakup in 1991. The visa-free policy applies to Europe’s Schengen Zone, which covers 25 EU states but not Britain and Ireland. It is a major boost for the Balkans, which has tried to move closer to Europe after the ethnic wars of the 1990s.

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