BRUSSELS — Permanent representatives of EU Member States approved the proposal for Council’s position on visa liberalization for Kosovo, on COREPER II meeting held on 30 November. This means that the Czech Presidency got the mandate to negotiate with the European Parliament on behalf of the Council, in order to finish the procedure that would grant the Kosovo the abolition of the visa regime.
#COREPERII | 👏👏👏 Ambassadors approved @EUCouncil‘s position on #visa liberalisation with #Kosovo 🇽🇰, negotiations with @Europarl_EN to follow. The #WesternBalkans is a priority for #EU2022CZ and this step supports the whole region.
— EU2022_CZ (@EU2022_CZ) November 30, 2022
Kosovo began its long journey towards visa liberalization back in 2012 and it fulfilled the criteria in 2018, as reported by the Commission. However, several Member States opposed visa liberalization for Kosovo due to concerns about migration or the rule of law. Finally, the situation changed and the Czech Presidency of the EU was determined to put the issue on the agenda for the first time.
During the Working Party meetings held in October and November, the Member States coordinated their positions and came to an agreement, which is now approved as the Council’s official position following today’s ambassadors’ meeting.
“Today we have taken an important step towards visa free travel for Kosovo and we now hope to reach an agreement with the European Parliament swiftly to make this promise a reality. Visa liberalisation has been made possible by Kosovo’s efforts to strengthen its border controls, migration management and security, and we trust that this good cooperation will only grow stronger in the future,” as stated by Jan Lipavský, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs.
According to the adopted proposal, the start of the visa free travel for the citizens of Kosovo is linked with the operationalization of 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. However, in case ETIAS doesn’t become operational by 1 January 2024, the visa free regime for citizens of Kosovo would then come into force nevertheless.
Following the agreement on the Council’s negotiating mandate on a regulation on visa free travel for holders of passports issued by Kosovo, the Czech Presidency will begin negotiations with the European Parliament, which needs to adopt the proposal by a qualified majority.
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.”