The five Western Balkans—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia—and the three Eastern Partnership nations—Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine—need to do more to continue to meet the terms on which they reached the agreements. on visa liberalization with the European Union.
The assessment comes from the EU Commission’s fourth report on monitoring the EU’s visa-waiver regime with these countries, which concluded that all seven countries have made significant progress in addressing last year’s recommendations, but nevertheless, there are areas that require more effort. Must.
Commenting on the report, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, was keen to stress the importance of the visa-waiver system between the EU and the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries, describing it as an important achievement.
“While restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on mobility, the visa-free countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership must continue and intensify their efforts in managing immigration and asylum and combating corruption and organized crime,” Commissioner Johansson also said.
The report covers several areas, including immigration, asylum and readmission cooperation, as well as the fight against organized crime.
With regard to immigration, the report concluded that unfounded asylum applications from citizens of these seven countries experienced a sharp decline in the spring of 2020, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions. At the same time, return rates for these asylum seekers have decreased due to limited flights.
Despite the overall reduction in the number of irregular border crossings, improvements are still needed in the areas of border management and immigration. Reception capacity in some Western Balkan countries continues to raise concerns, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the report notes.
With regard to the fight against organized crime, the report also notes the need for further efforts, as corruption at a high level remains one of the main areas of concern.
The EU Commission will continue to monitor the five Western Balkans and the three Eastern Partnership countries whether they continue to meet visa liberalization requirements through regular enlargement reports and EU accession negotiations where appropriate.
Currently, 61 countries of the world outside the European Union benefit from the EU visa-free system, according to which their citizens holding a biometric passport can enter the Schengen area for 90 days, within 180 days, without a visa. Visa-exempt travelers visiting the Schengen Area will be subject to the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) from the end of 2022.