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news 09 Jan 14

EU Downplays Serbian Visa Concerns

The European Commission has allayed Serbian worries about visas by confirming that no EU member country had yet sought suspension of the visa-free regime with the Balkans.

BIRN, Tanjug

Commission spokesperson Michele Cercone on Wednesday confirmed that no EU member states had sought activation of a mechanism that would suspend the current visa-free regime with Serbia.

"There were no new developments in the last three weeks," Cerkone told reporters.

He spoke after some countries, including Germany, have expressed growing concern over abuse of asylum procedures by citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A Slovenian MEP, Tanja Fajon, recently said the EU might reinstate visas for Serbs owing to the high number of bogus refugee claims made by Serbian citizens.

The MEP noted the negative rhetoric about migrants and refugees in both Germany and the UK.

Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and Luxembourg have born the brunt of the wave of asylum claimants from the Balkans.

As a result, Fajon said it was realistic to expect one of these countries to seek the activation of a mechanism that the European Parliament adopted last year.

The adopted "protection clause" allows the Commission to suspend the visa-free regime for countries seen as producing excessive numbers of false asylum seekers.

The protection clause may be applied if the number of illegal immigrants from a certain country is considered a threat to the public order or security of an EU state, or of the EU as a whole.

The new mechanism, which is due to be enforced on Thursday, may only be activated, however, if one or more EU member states are in a state of emergency that they cannot handle on their own.

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