Brussels, 21 February 2008
European Commission Vice President Franco Frattini, in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security, launched a dialogue on visa free travel with Montenegro in Podgorica today. The aim of this dialogue is to give clear indications to the authorities of Montenegro on the measures that need to be taken to grant visa free travel to all citizens of the country. "This is a tangible and concrete proof of the EU's commitment to Montenegro's European future", said Vice President Frattini at the opening ceremony of the dialogue on visa free travel.
Since 1 January 2008, Montenegrin citizens 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 to economic operators working with EU companies.
In today's meeting, the Slovenian Presidency of the Union and the Commission have taken the next step and opened a dialogue with Montenegro’s authorities which should lead to a visa free regime for all citizens of Montenegro.
The EU will continue to assist Montenegro politically and financially in fulfilling the conditions for visa liberalisation.
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. To help identify 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 Montenegro’s citizens are already enjoying the benefits of the visa facilitation regime which sets out simplified visa application and issuing procedures for a broad range of categories of citizens. 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, for example, children and pensioners.
For the implementation of the Visa Facilitation agreement, the Commission supported the creation of the Common Visa Application Centre in Podgorica. The Common Visa Application Centre opened on 5 October 2007. Slovenia, Austria Belgium, Hungary and Luxemburg are working together to provide a single point of contact for citizens of Montenegro to apply for visas to these countries.
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