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Brussels, 8 November 2010

Visa free regime for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina: the European Commission welcomes the Council’s decision.

The Ministers of Interior of the European Union adopted today the proposal to introduce visa free travel for citizens from Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs welcomed the Council’s decision, commenting: “Today is an historical day for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The citizens of these two countries will soon be able to travel with a biometric passport without visa to the EU countries participating in the common visa policy and those associated to the Schengen area. Visa free travel will facilitate people-to-people contacts, enhance business opportunities and give the possibility for the people of the region to get to know the EU better. But a visa-free regime also comes with responsibilities for both the governments and the people of the countries benefiting from this freedom. In the framework of previous visa liberalisation processes with the Western Balkans, we noticed an increased influx of unfounded asylum requests. This has been of major concern for the EU Member States and prompted the European Commission to set up a post-visa monitoring process that aims at preventing risks of misuse and abuse of the asylum procedures. It is of the utmost importance that Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to intensify their information campaign with the aim to properly explain to their citizens the meaning of short-term visa-free travel and what it entails, in particular warning against misuse for purposes incompatible with visa-free travel. I am confident that the efforts made by the authorities of the two countries, together with the monitoring mechanism, will offer an effective response to these worries and will allow citizens from Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina to fully benefit from this historical opportunity”.

Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement, commenting today’s decision said: “The visa-free regime is the best proof that reforms at home bring tangible benefits for citizens and progress in relations with the EU. We can build on this in order to further the reforms needed to bring the two countries closer to their European aspirations”.

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