Thursday, April 29, 2010

Free Visa Status for Albania?

As I've stated before in this Blog, I respond well to news presented by Balkan Investigative News Reporting (BIRN) and have frequently posted some of its Albanian-oriented info to the Frosina Blog.

For example, here's an interesting tidbit about Free Visa Status possibilities for Albania and Bosnia by the EU


EU: Bosnia, Albania Need to Work More for Visa Free Travel

Brussels | 22 April 2010 |

European CommissionBalkan Insight has obtained a copy of an EU assessment of the progress made by Albania and Bosnia in the implementation of the roadmap for visa liberalisation, which indicates that whilst both countries have made progress in meeting benchmarks, more effort is needed.

Although there is a chance that Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina might receive a positive recommendation from Brussels on the implementation of a visa free travel regime, Tirana and Sarajevo should not rest on their laurels as more work is needed before agreement is reached.

Without further progress, the two countries may well have to wait longer and will probably not enjoy visa free travel in time for the summer holidays, as they had initially hoped. The report, prepared by EU experts, guages the level of progress of both Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in meeting the necessary requirements for the visa liberalisation process.

The European Commission was expected to deliver a positive recommendation at the end of May or the beginning of June but according to the experts’ report, further conditions will need to be met before such approval can be given.

The report was sent to EU member states last Friday and it underlines that both countries have met the “majority of benchmarks from the roadmap” that would enable them to be put on the “White Schengen” list - countries whose citizens do not require a visa to travel within the zone.

Last year, both countries were judged to have failed to meet the necessary conditions and were excluded from first wave countries in the region, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia which were added to the “White Schengen” list.

According to the assessment bothcountries have met benchmarks from block 1 and 4, which concern document security, external relations and fundamental rights, but lack complete progress on issues of illegal immigration and public order and security.

While the experts consider that Bosnia has met the benchmarks in Block 2, which covers illegal immigration and readmission they believe that is is necessary to seek“further verification concerning the development of a strategy and policy to support the reintegration of returnees” before Albania can be judged to have met these benchmarks.

According to the report, both states have met the majority of benchmarks in Block 3, which concerns public order and security. However, certain improvements are still necessary.

In Albania, the experts wrote, “further efforts are needed regarding the strengthening of the capacities of law enforcement and effective implementation of the legal framework for the fight against organised crime and corruption, including through allocation of adequate financial and human resources.

“In particular the implementation of the new legal framework in the area of confiscation of criminal assets needs to be pursued further with determination", the document says.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, say the authors, needs to make further efforts “regarding strengthening capacities of law enforcement and the effective implementation of the legal framework, including through allocation of adequate financial and human resources”.

In addition, the experts note that “the action plan following the agreement on establishment of electronic data exchange between police and prosecution bodies should be progressively implemented. Entity-level and the Brcko District criminal codes should be amended to harmonise them with the state-level criminal code".

The European Parliament’s rapporteur for visa issues, Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon, said that this report is proof that both countries will miss the opportunity of visa-free travel prior to the summer and that a possible decision might only be taken later during the year.

“It is likely that new experts will visit Albania, which will of course mean additional time, and we won’t manage to conclude the process before summer break,” Tanja Fajon told Balkan Insight.

“But it is very important that the authorities continue to work [hard] because there are decisive months ahead of us and they should remain responsible,” she warns.

However, Fajon expects that Brussels will put forward a legislative proposal for visa liberalisation and require additional conditions to be met before the completion of the full visa liberalisation process.

The recommendation is expected to be made public at the end of May or the first week of June. Even with a positive recommendation for both Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, this will not mean that visa free regime will be guaranteed, as the European Commission is likely to require additional progress, particularly from Albania, in some fields before the countries are added to the “White Schengen” list.

If this is the case, it will mirror developments in Montenegro and Serbia last year, when the European Commission recommended the lifting of the visa regime but on condition that additional conditions were met later in the year.

“I expect that the reccommendation of the Commission [to be] for visa liberalisation for both countries but it still depends on remaining issues and here it is up to the local authorities to finalise


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