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IP/08/273

Brussels and Skopje, 20 February 2008

Commission launches dialogue with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on visa free travel

European Commission Vice President Franco Frattini, in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security, launched a dialogue on visa free travel with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Skopje today. The aim of this dialogue is to give clear indications to the authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the measures that need to be taken to grant visa free travel to all citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. "This is a tangible and concrete proof of the EU's commitment to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's European future", said Vice President Frattini at the opening ceremony of the dialogue on visa free travel.

Since 1 January 2008, citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia enjoy the benefits of a visa facilitation agreement with the European Union. This agreement provides for easier access to visas for a broad range of categories of citizens ranging from students, sportsmen and women, cultural workers, journalists, people visiting family members living in the EU, people in need of medical treatment, economic operators working with EU companies, etc.

In today's meeting, the Slovenian Presidency of the Union and the Commission have taken the next step and opened a dialogue with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia authorities which should lead to a visa free regime for all citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The EU will continue to assist the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia politically and financially to fulfil the conditions for visa liberalisation.

Background

The Council of the European Union on 28 January 2008 welcomed the intention of the European Commission to launch a visa dialogue with all Western Balkan countries and expressed its readiness to further discuss this issue, based on the Commission's forthcoming Communication on the Western Balkans. For facilitating the identification of key elements, the whole process will be based on detailed roadmaps setting clear benchmarks to be met by each of the countries in the region in order to gradually advance towards visa liberalisation. This would enable the Council and the Commission to closely monitor progress in necessary reforms.

From the first of January 2008 the citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are already enjoying the benefits of the visa facilitation regime which sets out simplifying visa application and issuing procedures for a broad range of categories of citizens ranging from students, sportsmen and women, cultural workers, journalists, people visiting family members living in the EU, people in need of medical treatment, economic operators working with EU companies, etc. The visa facilitation agreement also foresees a lower cost of visas (€35 instead of €60), visas which will allow for multiple entries in the EU with a validity up to five years, visas free of charge for children and pensioners, etc.
To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please see his website

http://www.ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/frattini/index_en.htm


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