The European Union has moved a step closer to allowing Kosovo passport holders to enter the bloc without visa requirements.
Under draft laws, Kosovar citizens could soon travel to the EU without a visa for a period of stay of 90 days over a six-month period.
Among western Balkan countries, only Kosovo citizens must currently apply for a permit to visit, study, or receive medical care in the EU and the Schengen area.
Indeed, Kosovo remains the only country in continental Europe besides Russia and Belarus outside the EU’s visa-free regime.
Activists have told Euronews that the requirements are "unjust" and "a very politicised issue". Not all 27 EU countries recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in Kosovo.
Serbia — which sees its former province as a part of its territory — has actively tried to prevent Kosovo from becoming a full-fledged member of international organisations such as the UN and Interpol.
But the EU said on Wednesday that Kosovo has made "significant progress" on various reforms, including the fundamental right of free movement.
The measure could be lifted by 1 January 2024, the European Council said in a statement.
The EU ambassadors agreed with a mandate on Wednesday and the matter will now be discussed between the Czech EU Presidency and the European Parliament.
"Today we have taken an important step towards visa-free travel for Kosovo," said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský.
"We now hope to reach an agreement with the European Parliament swiftly to make this promise a reality," he added.
"Visa liberalisation has been made possible by Kosovo’s efforts to strengthen its border controls, migration management, and security, and we trust that this good cooperation will only grow stronger in the future."