8 April 2014
Visa-free travel for Moldova to become reality on 28 April 2013
Cecilia Malmström. Photo: European Commission
Cecilia Malmström. Photo: European Commission

On 28 April 2014, Moldovans will be able to enter the Schengen zone without a visa. This is the result of an EU-Moldova visa liberalisation process, which had been launched in June 2010. "This is a great achievement and the beginning of a new chapter in our relations," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom last week "The efforts by the Moldovan authorities have paid off." Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca had said earlier that was happy, explaining that visa-free travel would allow Moldovan families to reunite more often, people in the Diaspora to return home frequently, and Moldova's citizens to travel and see with their own eyes what life is like in the European Union.

Today, an amendment of the EU's Visa Regulation according to which Moldova is moved from the black list to the white list was published in the EU's Official Journal, confirming 28 April as the date of the start of the visa-free travel regime. Under this regime, Moldovan holders of biometric passports will be able to freely enter the EU and spent up to 90 days within a 6-months period in the Schengen zone.

Moldova had made visa-free travel a top priority during the visa liberalisation process, working hard on the requirements that its visa action plan set out. Among other things, Moldova has reformed its Interior Ministry, improved and modernised border management, introduced an asylum system, adopted and implemented a contested anti-discrimination law, and stepped up cooperation with the EU in the field of home affairs. ESI's report "The surprising front-runner – Moldova before and after the Vilnius summit" (January 2013) highlights Moldova's efforts and successes.

ESI has closely followed Moldova's visa liberalisation process. In 2010, Gerald Knaus and Alexandra Stiglmayer visited Moldova to discuss with government officials the reforms and policies required to achieve visa-free travel, building on the expertise and experience ESI had acquired during the visa liberalisation process for the Western Balkans. Accompanied by former Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Bocevski, they were able to share the lessons learnt with then Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat, then Foreign Minister Iurie Leanca and many other officials.

In 2012, ESI released its one-hour TV documentary "Moldova – Lost in transition", produced in collaboration with ERSTE Stiftung. The documentary covers the story of a country struggling inspired to move closer to the EU and to overcome a steep economic decline and its Communist legacy.

FurioSnails: "Blue Passports" (clip from ESI documentary "Moldova – Lost in transition"). With visa free travel for Moldovans starting on 28 April 2014, Moldovan blue passports are now an entry ticket to the Schengen zone.
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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