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Three Balkan countries get EU visa freedom

Three Balkan countries get EU visa freedom
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Eighteen years of visa restrictions in the Balkans end tonight, as citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro get the right to travel freely in Europe.

The three peoples enjoyed unrestricted travel for 40 years as part of Yugoslavia – the only communist country which allowed its citizens foreign trips. Visas though were introduced as Yugoslavia broke up in 1991.

The new regulations apply to Europe’s Schengen Zone, which covers 25 EU states, but not Britain and Ireland.

“Since November 30, when the final decision about visa abolition was made, we have had a lot more people looking for a short break in European cities, especially for the New Year,” said Belgrade travel agent Milica Zarkovic.

The visa regulations have been a major irritant in relations between the EU and western Balkan nations. Critics said the requirements also hurt the EU’s attempts to integrate the region into the bloc.

The changes are also a boost for the pro-EU Serbian government which has been under pressure from nationalists over its close ties with the West.