Establishing European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a proposal from the European Commission from 2016, confirmed last week by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in European Parliament, with certain additions. For entry into force, it should be confirmed by European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the EU. Nevertheless, in the media in the Western Balkans, it can be heard almost on a daily basis that ETIAS represents the introduction of visas for the Western Balkans.
According to Marko Kmezić, a professor at the University of Graz and a member of Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPEAG) , an introduction of the ETIAS system is still not certain, and if the Western Balkan countries come to it, they should work together in an attempt to be exempt from ETIAS system.
Kmezić also explains a reason for introducing ETIAS from the corner of the European Union.
“The reason for this is the need to increase the sense of security in the EU, accelerate the flow of goods and people at the Schengen border crossing points, as well as to abolish the existing border control within the Union itself introduced almost two years ago as an outspoken response to the migrant crisis.”
He explains that he understands concerns of Western Balkan citizens regarding the ETIAS system and sees as a necessary need to make additional efforts in explaining what this system is actually.
“The announcement of the introduction of the European ETIAS system is particularly hard for the citizens of the Western Balkans. Indeed, it is difficult to understand that only after we have forgotten the difficult and distressing queues for obtaining Schengen visas Now, if the system actually being introduced, although our country’s progress in the negotiation process for EU membership, we go one step back and we can not travel to the country Schengen area without prior permission. ”
Kmezić also points out that if the ETIAS really comes into force, EU delegations to the Western Balkans region should do it seriously and deal with the campaign in order to bring this information closer to the citizens.
“EU delegations should, in this case, communicate more and explain that the ETIAS system does not mean returning visas. It is an electronic registration of a trip that will be valid for three years which, in my opinion, can not be denied for economic or any other reasons except in case of doubt that the applicant will endanger the security of the EU. ”
He recalls that this universal system is directed both to “a tourist from the United States, a businessman from Japan and to the citizens of the Western Balkans. ”
However, at the moment of a constant decline in EU integration support, ETIAS comes at a bad time in the countries of the Western Balkans, Kmezić said.
“Also, we should not forget the economic burden of this system that falls on the passengers themselves. While the cost of the ETIAS application for the aforementioned US tourists, and it is announced that it will be ten euros, it does not represent a significant cost, it could significantly impede travel, for example, a four-member family living on average Balkan income. ”
Kmezić also sees the possibility for the countries of the Western Balkans to come together in an attempt to be exempted from the ETIAS system.
“Bearing in mind the signed Stabilization and Association Agreements, I think it is necessary for all countries of the Western Balkans to jointly demand from Brussels an exemption from payment or a significant reduction in the payment of the processing of ETIAS applications. That would also be good for the EU in terms of confirming the credibility of the prospects for the membership of the said countries. ”
The publication of this article has been supported by the European Fund for the Balkans