If approved by the European Parliament, residents of the disputed province would be able to enter the bloc freely for up to 90 days
The European Council has adopted a measure to give Kosovo passport holders the freedom to enter the EU without a visa for up to 90 days. The move comes as Brussels pressures Serbia to recognize the breakaway province as an independent country.
The council announced its decision on Thursday, noting that the measure still needs the approval of the European Parliament before it can become law. Should MPs sign off on it, the arrangement is scheduled to come into force on 1 January 2024.
“Kosovo has made great efforts to improve its security and migration management and to align its visa policy with that of the EU.” This is what Sweden’s Minister of Migration Maria Malmer Stenergard says in a statement.
EU authorities expect Kosovo to join the union sometime after 2025, according to an expansion plan published by the European Commission in 2018. Pristina formally submitted an application for membership last December.
In the time since then, Brussels has pushed Serbia – a candidate for EU membership since 2012 – to accept Kosovo’s independence, floating a controversial “normalization” proposal last month. Serbia has so far refusedwith President Aleksandar Vucic saying Belgrade will never sign anyone “formal or informal recognition of Kosovo.”
Home to an ethnic Albanian majority and a Serbian minority, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, eight years after NATO bombed Serbia at the behest of an ethnic Albanian insurgency. Kosovo’s declaration of independence was supported by the US-led bloc, even though it violated UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which guaranteed Serbia’s territorial integrity.
The Serbian population in Kosovo fell due to expulsions during World War II and after the NATO bombing campaign, while more than 150 Serbian Orthodox churches, cemeteries and monasteries were destroyed by Albanian separatists between 1999 and 2004.
While the EU has since deepened its ties with Kosovo, five of its members – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece – do not recognize the province’s independence. Currently, a Kosovo passport allows the bearer visa-free access to 15 countries.