It was recently announced that Croatia believes that Kosovo fulfilled all of the requirements set forth by the visa liberalization scheme and, because of such, should be allowed to get rid of its current visa program pending approval from the 26 other member states. This notion was supported by Danjela Barisic, the Croatian ambassador to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.
She told the press, “We need arguments that Kosovo has done everything that had to be done. This country has to keep on fighting crime and corruption. Kosovo has to give us arguments to convince the reluctant member states and show them that it has done everything they could.”
The fight now will be to convince holdout states that Kosovo’s regulatory regimes are in alignment with those of the member states so that the process of dismantling the local visa system can begin. And, even with all of their prior work behind them, Barisic stresses that there is still much to do in terms of bilateral activities between Kosovo’s local government and EU authorities. For one, the two sides need to come together to discuss further harmonizations of bureaucratic systems but, as far as the visa liberalization requirements go, Barisic is adamant that the government in Pristina met its end of the bargain.
Support for free movement for Kosovars is reportedly strong within the European Parliament but it is the Council that is apparently reluctant to move forward with implementation. This is due to the concerns of numerous states about allowing such movement to occur when other aspects of the regulatory regime are not yet ready. Peter Beyer of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union calls this exclusion of Kosovars from the privileges of freedom of movement “unfair.”
“I always mentioned the visa liberalization of Kosovo in different meetings, because it is very unfair that only Kosovars do not have the possibility of free movement.”
Some of the holdouts include Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. Part of their reasoning behind their position is that they do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state thus rendering the question of whether or not its citizens have freedom of movement a moot one. Others have taken the position that Kosovo still has not met regulatory requirements that would give them the privilege of freedom of movement among member states. There are also the more peripheral concerns that granting Kosovars freedom of movement will initiate a mass movement of people out of the area and into other parts of Europe as refugees akin to what happened in 2014 according to numerous reports. As it remains yet unresolved, hopes are high that progress can be made this year towards a joint agreement that allows Kosovars freedom of movement. Of course, this is seen more as an inevitable fact than an impossibility, but the question remains as to when the European Parliament and Council will be able to bring everyone on board to allow Kosovo the freedom of movements that its advocates say it deserves – and has earned.