Thursday, July 15, 2010

Albania Political Crisis Complicates Visa Liberalisation

The political standoff in Albania between Rama and Berisha goes on and on, and now, even Kosova, with its more recent status as a nation, is ahead of Albania in Visa Liberalization. Here's BIRN's recent take on the situation...


Albania Political Crisis Complicates Visa Liberalisation

Brussels | 14 July 2010 | Gjergj Erebara

Bosnia and Herzegovina will be awarded visa liberalisation with the EU by the end of this year, but the situation in Albania is more complicated, MEP Eduard Kukan has said, adding that Kosovo's negotiations for visa liberalisation can begin despite existing issues.

Kukan, a Slovakian member of the European Parliament, is the chair of the Delegation of the European Parliament for relations with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

In a meeting with a group of journalists from the Western Balkans, Kukan stressed that even Kosovo is on its way toward visa liberalisation, while the political crisis in Albania is undermining the achievements made on technical criteria.

“The sensitive issue in the discussion on Bosnia and Herzegovina was whether we have to grant visa liberalisation before the election or after the election,” said Kukan. “The European Commission set certain technical criteria to be fulfilled and once those criteria have been fulfilled, they should have the liberalised visa regime, otherwise the rest is politics and not correct,” he added.

According to Kukan, Bosnia has fulfilled most of the visa roadmap and there are only two or three details to be finalised.

“Bosnia has fulfilled the technical criteria but because of the legislative process, I do not think that it will be possible to take the decision in July. My prediction is that Bosnia will be granted visa liberalisation by the end of this year,” Kukan explained.

According to him, the situation of Albania is similar, but more complicated because of the opposition boycott of the parliament and the political crisis that has gripped that country for the past year due to the contested results of the 2009 parliamentary elections.

“Given the situation in Albania that we could call a stalemate, or crisis… it’s complicated in the sense that a country that has fulfilled technical criteria should have visa liberalisation but a country that does not enjoy the regular functioning of all democratic institutions has always been looked as a country that is missing something,” Kukan said.

Speaking about the situation in Kosovo, Kukan said that there has been progress, and the European Commission has authorised the start of negotiations, while adding that Europe’s newest country would not remain the only one without a chance at visa liberalisation, but that it would face an uphill battle to achieve it because Kosovo is not recognised by all EU member states.

“It is going to develop but I can’t tell you how much time it will take; the status problem does exist,” said Kukan.

Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina are the only remaining Western Balkan countries that still must apply for and obtain visas to travel in the Shengen area of the European Union. Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro were granted a liberalised regime last year.


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