Progress assessments by the European Commission
The European Commission assessed the progress of the five Western Balkan countries in meeting the roadmap requirements several times: during the actual visa liberalisation process 2008 to 2010 as well as afterwards ("post-visa liberalisation monitoring report"). As Albania and Bosnia needed one year more to implement all roadmap requirements, there were more progress assessments concerning these two countries. (All assessments are available on this website further down.)
Assessments of progress by all five countries:
The European Commission assessed the progress of all five Western Balkan countries in meeting the visa roadmap requirements first on 18 November 2008 and then on 18 May 2009. The assessments in November 2008 were based on "readiness reports" that the Western Balkan countries had to submit by September 2008. According to the assessments, the countries fell into three groups. Macedonia was the most advanced; Serbia and Montenegro made up the second group; Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina made up the third.
The second set of assessments in May 2009 was based on updates and additional information submitted by the Western Balkan governments, but also field missions conducted by EU national experts between January and March 2009. There were 15 such missions, three to each Western Balkan country, verifying and scrutinising on the ground the situation with regard to Blocks 1 to 3 of the roadmap (document security, border control, migration management and the fight against organised crime, corruption and illegal migration). Roadmap requirements related to human rights issued were discussed in seminars in Brussels, which were another source of information for the Commission.
The May 2009 assessments concluded that Macedonia met the conditions for visa-free travel, that Montenegro and Serbia met most of the conditions, but that Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania did not yet meet all the conditions for visa free travel. The Commission proposed visa-free travel to Macedonia on 15 July 2009, and to Montenegro and Serbia on condition that the two countries meet a few outstanding benchmark before the Council's vote on 30 November 2009. This required new expert missions and another assessment, which the Commission issued on 19 November 2009, certifying that Montenegro and Serbia had met all open benchmarks. The visa barrier was lifted for Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, with their citizens being able to travel to the EU without a visa from 19 December 2009.
For Albania and Bosnia, which had made less progress, the visa liberalisation process continued. On 15 July 2009, the Commission asked the governments of Albania and Bosnia by letter to make progress in specific areas that would help them achieve the related benchmarks, and to report on progress by 1 October 2009, with updates in mid-November 2009. Based on the government reports, the Commission drafted new assessments dated 27 November 2009.
In December 2009 and February 2010, the Commission organised expert missions to Albania and Bosnia, which, alongside new government reports, provided input for new assessments of Albania's and Bosnia's progress, which the Commission issued on 19 April 2010. According to these assessments, both countries had made substantial progress with only a few benchmarks remaining open. On 27 May 2010, the Commission issued a legislative proposal for Albania and Bosnia, suggesting lifting the visa obligation if each of the two countries meets three separate outstanding open benchmarks.
Based on another round of expert missions and government reports, the Commission produced a new assessment of progress on 14 September 2010, concluding that "Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina have taken all the necessary measures to fulfil all open benchmarks […] and consequently can be transferred from the negative (Annex I) to the positive (annex II) list of Regulation 539/2001." The visa obligation for Albanians and Bosnians has been lifted since 19 December 2010.
Following a rise in asylum seekers from Macedonia and Serbia in 2010 (see "Visa-free Travel and Asylum"), the Commission decided in November 2010 to continue to monitor whether the five Western Balkan countries maintain their efforts to meet the roadmap requirements. The first "post-visa liberalisation monitoring report" was issued on 30 May 2011.
Assessment by the European Commission whether the five Western Balkan countries continue to meet the roadmap requirements
- Second Post-Visa Liberalisation Monitoring Report (9 December 2011)
- Post-Visa Liberalisation Monitoring Report (30 May 2011)
Assessment by the European Commission on the fulfilment of the open benchmarks by Albania and Bosnia (14 September 2010)
- Assessment (Commission Staff Working Document)
Oral assessment by the European Commission of Albania's and Bosnia's progress in meeting the remaining open benchmarks (2 September 2010)
- Assessment (transcript)
Assessments by the European Commission of Albania and Bosnia (19 April 2010)
Assessments by the European Commission of Albania and Bosnia (27 November 2009)
Assessment by the European Commission on the fulfilment of the open benchmarks by Montenegro and Serbia (19 November 2009)
- Assessment (Commission Staff Working Document)
- ESI op-ed: Visa-free travel in the Balkans (6 December 2009)
- ESI Newsletter 9/2009: 1989 and donkeys in Baku – Visa decision day in Brussels – ESI in Harvard (24 November 2009)
Assessments by the European Commission (18 May 2009)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- ESI Newsletter 4/2009: ESI White List Visa Project – Exclusive Scorecard of Balkan Progress (22 May 2009)
- ESI Letter to EU officials (1 June 2009)
- ESI op-ed: Visa-free travel for the Western Balkans – a win-win situation (15 June 2009)
- ESI Newsletter 6/2009: Western Balkans Visa Grade Reports - Albanian Elections June 2009 (26 June 2009)
- ESI op-ed: Winners, losers and the future of the Balkan ghetto (16 July 2009)
- ESI Newsletter 7/2009: Visa and Balkan Muslims – Kosovo Appeal by Amato and Schily – 10 years ESI (21 July 2009)
- ESI Newsletter 8/2009: Bosnia's visa breakthrough and the power of Europe (29 September 2009)
Assessments by the European Commission (24 November 2008)