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Brussels, 27 May 2010

European Commission proposes visa free travel for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina

The European Commission today adopted a proposal to enable citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina to travel with biometric passports to the Schengen countries without needing a visa. The proposal is conditional on both countries fulfilling three outstanding requirements.

"I know how much visa free travel means to the people of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Granting visa free travel is a cornerstone of the EU's integration policy for the Western Balkans. Facilitating people to people contacts enhances business opportunities and gives the possibility for the people of the region to get to know the EU better", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. She added: "Today's proposal is the result of intensive and hard work for the authorities and the people of these countries in meeting the conditions. I am certain that the two countries, building on the good results already shown, will be able to fulfil the remaining criteria in due time in order to allow the European Parliament and the Council of EU Ministers to give the final green light to this proposal as soon as possible. Let me also stress that this freedom would come with responsibility. So I encourage national authorities in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue informing their citizens about the rights and obligations stemming from short-term visa-free travel''.

Stefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, underlined: "This proposal for visa free travel is of the utmost importance for the citizens of the countries concerned, since it will bring them closer to the EU. The visa-free regime will contribute to making the European perspective more tangible. I am as confident as Commissioner Malmström that relevant national authorities in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina will soon be able to fulfil all outstanding requirements and continue to guarantee consistent results in the implementation of the roadmaps."

The proposal aims at simplifying travel to EU countries (except the UK and Ireland, which do not take part in the common visa policy) and those associated to the Schengen area (Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) for the citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, abolishing the obligation to apply for a short-term visa.

It is the result of more than two years' intensive work in the framework of the visa liberalisation dialogue, which started with these two countries during the first semester of 2008: on the basis of roadmaps presented by the European Commission, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina have made important progress in improving passport security, strengthening border controls and reinforcing the institutional framework to fight organised crime and corruption. Substantial progress has been done also in the field of external relations and fundamental rights.

Despite these good results, both countries still have to make progresses in some areas where shortcomings have still been identified (for more details see MEMO/10/218). The European Commission will continue to monitor the efforts put in place to effectively tackle the outstanding issues and will report timely to the EP and the Council on the findings. The monitoring exercise could take place over the summer in order to allow the Council and the Parliament to take a final decision in autumn.

The proposal follows last year's Council Decision exempting from the short-term visa obligation the citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

It will be now up to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union to take a final decision on the Commission proposal.

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

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