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News 11 Feb 13

Kosovo Urged to Work on EU Visa 'Roadmap'

The EU has urged Kosovo to strengthen its battle against organized crime and corruption as part of its drive to secure an eventual end to visa requirements.

BIRN
Pristina

“Kosovo continues to face major challenges in effectively preventing and combating organized crime and corruption," a new European Commission report on Kosovo's progress in fulfilling the requirements of the visa liberalization roadmap says.

"The combination of lucrative cross-border illicit activities, economic underdevelopment and limited administrative capacity create considerable incentives for bribery, money-laundering and the abuse of public procurement procedures,” it added.

The Commission sent the report on Friday to the European Parliament and the EU Council.

Senior EU officials are expected in Pristina on Tuesday to discuss the findings and remind the Kosovo authorities of the need to meet the necessary criteria in two separate but related dialogues between EU and Kosovo.

One is the Visa Liberalization Dialogue and the other is the so-called Structured Dialogue on the Rule of Law.

Bajram Rexhepi, the Kosovo Interior Minister, told Balkan Insight that the authorities were “aware of problems in the rule of law and in organized crime and corruption, but it’s illogical to pretend concrete results can be achieved in six months”.

The Anti-Corruption Agency is seen as the main actor in fighting organized crime and corruption, but a special Task Force and an Anti-Corruption Council have also been established during the past two years, complicating matters.

The EU report stressed that while the anti-corruption agency’s expertise and powers remained limited, "The two other anti-corruption bodies have overlapping roles and responsibilities in the fight against corruption, which limits their effectiveness”.

The report also urged the authorities to engage more in the re-admission and re-integration of people who had left Kosovo and wished to return, and amend migration and asylum laws.

Although the report noted a fall in the number of people from Kosovo seeking asylum in the EU, this issue is viewed seriously in the EU.

“The high number of asylum seekers remains the biggest enemy of visa liberalization for Kosovo, but we need to launch an intense awareness campaign [to curb it]”, Rexhepi said.

The European Commission launched its visa liberalization dialogue with Kosovo on January 19, 2012 and handed over a so-called roadmap on June 14.

Kosovo is now the only country in the Western Balkans whose citizens are excluded from a visa-free travel regime with the EU's Schengen area.

The EU lifted visas on Albania and Bosnia in 2010. Visa requirements were lifted for Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia a year earlier.

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