17 January 2008
ESI in Brussels - Presentation at COWEB on visa free travel for the countries of the Western Balkans

Gerald gave a presentation advocating the abolishment of the visa regime for the Western Balkans to COWEB, the Council working group with Western Balkan experts from the EU member states.

He argued that the Balkans in 2007 is a very different region from the Balkans in 1997:

  • there is no evidence that a country like Bosnia is "at the centre" of transnational organised crime, as is sometimes argued.
  • most outsider's images about anarchy in Albania are outdated.
  • introducing visa-free travel for Macedonians (2 million people), Montenegrins (600,000), Bosnians (less than 4 million people) or 3 million Albanians is a small risk and in other cases (Bulgaria and Romania) the importance of this step for their overall (successful) transformation is unquestioned.

He concluded by suggesting to put all countries of the Western Balkans on the "white Schengen list" immediately with an asterix (*). The same was done for Romania in 2001. Under this proposal the asterix would indicate that once conditions defined in country-specific road maps were met, visa free travel would follow.

This would send a powerful political message at a moment when the EU needs maximum leverage in the region.

Read more on this presentation in the Rumeli Observer Blog entry "Peddling ideas around Schuman"

Border fence between Albania and Macedonia
Border fence between Albania and Macedonia
About us
Photo credits
Alan Grant is an Irish photographer who travelled extensively in the Balkans and other countries and regions of the world. Thanks to him, ESI is able to show fascinating pictures of the Balkans: the facades of Tirana, the painted mosques of Travnik, the fabulous old houses of Plovdiv and the spectacular blue of water - dark in the Bay of Kotor, emerald in the river valleys of Bosnia, deep blue in Ohrid, twinkling in the Aegean Sea and on the Bosporus.

You can find out more about Alan Grant on his websites:
Jonathan Lewis lives between London and Istanbul. He moved to London and spent many years studying photography and now specialises in photojournalism, documentary photography and commercial work for a wide variety of private and commercial clients in the UK, Europe and Turkey. His work has appeared in a number of magazines and publications and is used on the ESI website as well.

You can find out more about Jonathan Lewis on his website www.jonathanlewisphoto.com