European Western Balkans

Visa liberalization for Kosovo on EU agenda tomorrow

Crossing points; Photo: UNOPS/Elise Laker

BRUSSELS — Following the agreement among the Member States on visa liberalization for Kosovo, according to which it should come into force no later than 1 January 2024, the Committee Permanent of Representatives (COREPER II) is set to give its approval on the current proposal on 30 November. 

Visa liberalization for Kosovo is included in the agenda under the list of non-discussion items, meaning that the consensus has already been reached and there will be no further discussion in COREPER on the issue. 

It was reported that the permanent representatives were supposed to give their approval for visa liberalization during the previous weekly meeting held on 23 November, however the Czech Presidency of the EU decided to remove the issue from that week’s agenda due to escalation of tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, following the unsuccessful meeting of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. 

The meeting held in Brussels was initiated and facilitated by the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, but it didn’t result in an agreement which would ease the tensions related to the issue of car plates in Kosovo. However, a temporary solution has been agreed upon in the meantime, thus removing the obstacle for reintroducing the question of visa liberalization on this week’s agenda. 

The Czech Presidency regarded granting visa liberalization to Kosovo, which fulfilled the criteria back in 2018, as one of its priorities. No earlier presidency put the item on the agenda, due to opposition voiced by several Member States such as France and the Netherlands. 

During the Working Party meetings held in October and November, the countries agreed on the draft proposal, which included the French recommendation for visa liberalization to be linked with the operationalization of ETIAS, expected for 1 November 2023. 

In case that ETIAS, a new system designed to improve security and enable authorities of the Schengen countries to keep track of third country nationals entering Schengen zone without visa, does not become operational within the designated timeframe, visa free regime for citizens of Kosovo should nevertheless start no later than this date, according to the previous version of the proposal. 

However, Spain — one of 5 Member States which don’t recognize Kosovo as an independent state — did not agree with the proposed date and requested the final date for visa liberalization to be postponed to 1 January 2024, after its presidency is concluded. After the agreement was reached in the Working Party on 22 November, the proposal was passed to COREPER for voting. 

Therefore, after COREPER adopts the proposal as expected on 30 November, it will be passed for the first time to the European Parliament and the Council for adoption by qualified majority. The Czech Presidency expressed hope that the entire procedure will be done before the end of its mandate on 31 December. 

The European Parliament expressed support for visa liberalization for Kosovo in several occasions over the past few years, following the Commission’s first recommendation to grant visa free travel to the citizens of Kosovo in 2018. Most recently, the EP adopted a resolution on enlargement in which it called upon the Council to “grant visa liberalization to Kosovo without delay.”

In case the procedure goes according to the Czech plan and the proposal is adopted in both the EP and the Council, Kosovo would still need to take additional steps in the upcoming months before visa liberalization is put into effect. It should adopt readmission agreements and align its visa regime with the EU. 

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