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Brussels, 18 December 2009

First Serbian citizens travelling to the EU without visas will land in Brussels

In the first minutes of December 19 th, fifty citizens of the Republic of Serbia will be the first to travel to the European Union without visas in their passports in a flight from Belgrade to Brussels. This group of Serbian citizens, who were selected through the “Europe for everyone” open competition and have not had the opportunity to visit the European Union before, will also visit Rome, Berlin and Paris.

This trip will symbolically mark the abolition of visas for Serbian citizens to travel to the EU. It has been organized by the Serbian authorities in cooperation with the European Movement in Serbia. The project is supported by the European Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement under the "People 2 People" Programme, as well as by the Embassies of France, Italy and Germany.

On Saturday afternoon, European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, will welcome the group lead by the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Božidar Đelić.

On 30 November, the EU decided today that the citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia will be able to travel without visa to the Schengen area as of 19 December 2009.

The new visa free regime will apply to all holders of biometric passports, who can now travel to the Schengen area for up to 90 days per six-month period. The Schengen area is made up of 28 European countries – all EU Member States except the UK and Ireland, as well as three non-EU members, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Persons who do not hold a biometric passport and the residents of Kosovo holding a Serbian passport issued by the Coordination Directorate in Belgrade will still need a visa. The same goes for the persons who intend to work during a short stay or who want to come for more than 90 days; they need visas and work permits.

The European Commission started the visa liberalisation dialogue in early 2008 with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Centrepieces of the dialogue have been the European Commissions roadmaps, setting out the conditions that each country had to meet. In July 2009 the European Commission proposed lifting the visa obligation for the first three countries. The European Parliament gave a positive opinion in November 2009.

Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are also covered by the visa dialogue, are not included in today's decision, as the latest assessment of the Commission showed that they did not yet meet all the requirements.

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