07 Oct 10

European Parliament Backs Albania, Bosnia Visa Liberalisation

The European Parliament approved on Thursday visa liberalisation for Bosnia and Albania, with 538 votes in favour and 47 against. Visa-free travel for Bosnians and Albanians now faces only one more approval process before becoming a reality.

Besar Likmeta

The European Parliament, EP, approved the report from Slovenian MEP Tania Fajon according to which both Bosnia and Albania have fulfilled the requirements under the visa liberalisation roadmap.  

Liberalisation would allow Albanian and Bosnian citizens to travel in the Schengen group of countries without a visa.

Albanian President Bamir Topi praised today's vote as a step forward for the country. He said: “I would like to thank the European Parliament for this historic decision, which opens the way for the freedom of movement for all Albanians, this deep aspiration of the Albanian people and its institutions.”

Osman Topcagic, the head of Bosnia's mission to the European Council, said that the decision by the EP was a “strong message” to the Council for when it meets to decide whether or not to lift visa requirements for the citizens of Albania and Bosnia.

“It is true that some (EU) member countries have asked for additional guarantees…but we are in contact with them and I hope that they will find our answers to their questions to be satisfactory,” Topcagic told Bosnian radio.

Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Macedonia, achieved visa liberalisation with the EU on December 16, 2009.

Following the parliament’s approval, a decision by the EU council of interior ministers on whether to allow visa-free travel for Albanian and Bosnian citizens in the Schengen zone may be reached in early Novermber, and visas could be lifted by the end of the year.

However, earlier this month France reportedly asked to be given additional guarantees before agreeing to lift visa requirements for Bosnians and Albanians, and some observers have expressed concern that this may slow down the granting of visa liberalisation for the two countries.

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