MEPs gave their backing on Thursday to proposals to exempt nationals of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania from visas by the end of 2010, believing like the European Commission that these two countries meet the required conditions on document security and combating illegal immigration and crime.
On 30 November 2009 the EU decided to waive visa requirements for citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, a decision which took effect on 19 December that year. At the time, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania did not meet all the criteria on illegal immigration, public policy and security.
Last May, however, the Commission decided that the two countries had made good progress and recommended that Parliament and the Council give the go-ahead to abolish the visa requirements by the end of the year, for visits of less than three months. The report by Tanja Fajon (S&D, SL), adopted today by 538 votes to 47, with 41 abstentions, backs the Commission's proposal. Only holders of biometric passports will be exempt from the visa rules.
The proposal to waive visa requirements still needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers by a qualified majority in November.
On Wednesday during the parliamentary debate, Tanja Fajon said the decision "will strengthen trust among people and speed up reforms" in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are "on the path to membership".
"Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina have fulfilled all the conditions and are ready for the abolition of visas. This has been confirmed by the European Commission (...) it is time to send a positive message to those countries, we will tear down the visa walls (...) people deserve it more than ever" she said.
Kosovo still "outside the process"
The rapporteur regrets, however, that Kosovo remains "the only part of the Western Balkans still totally outside the process of visa liberalisation" because of "the split between Member States over recognition of its independence".
The UK and Ireland have not opted in to this legislation.