The European Commission proposed to abolish visas for Kosovo Serbs, who are the last residents of the Western Balkans with a visa regime for EU countries, the EC announced today, as quoted by France Press and BTA.
Since 2009, Serbs can travel to Schengen countries without visas for short stays.
This year, the EU decided to grant the same regime to the citizens of Kosovo as of January 1 next year.
However, the decision did not cover ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo and hold Serbian passports.
About 120,000 Kosovo Serbs live in Kosovo, which has a population of 1.8 million. The former Serbian region declared independence in 2008, which Belgrade does not recognize.
European Commission spokesman Christian Wiegand said the proposal, which must be adopted by MEPs and EU member states, means that all citizens of the Western Balkans will be covered by the visa-free regime.
The Serbian government described the decision as “excellent news” and said it expects it to come into effect in the first months of next year.
Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo “are not and should not be second-class citizens and have all the rights that have been taken away from them for years,” Petar Petkovic, director of the Office for Kosovo in the Serbian government, said in a statement.
Five EU countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence (Greece, Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus). Pristina applied for EU membership in December 2022.
For years, the EU has played the role of mediator between Kosovo and Serbia in an attempt to normalize relations between the two neighboring countries, but so far it has not been able to achieve a breakthrough, notes France Presse.