2 April 2010
ESI in Tirana: Visa liberalisation in practice
View of the panel, Alexandra Stiglmayer second from right. Photo: European Movement Albania
View of the panel, Alexandra Stiglmayer second from right. Photo: European Movement Albania

ESI Senior Analyst Alexandra Stiglmayer was invited to speak at a conference in Tirana titled "Visa Liberalisation: What it actually means," which was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania and the European Movement Albania (EMA). At the conference, the Foreign Ministry announced a public information campaign aimed at familiarising Albanian citizens with what visa-free travel encompasses - that it, for example, allows for short stays of up to 90 days within a half-year period in the EU, but that it does not entitle to working in the EU, nor to taking up residence.

The speakers also discussed Albania's progress in meeting the conditions from the visa roadmap as well as the EU's likely timetable for the abolition of the visa requirement, which is not likely before the autumn. Alexandra stressed that this is much later than originally planned and referred to a letter of protest that ESI has written in that regard.

Other topics included the role of Albanian civil society in implementing the roadmap and monitoring implementation, which could have been stronger, as well as the mood in Brussels following a sudden, but brief surge in asylum seekers from Macedonia and Serbia in Belgium. Alexandra emphasised that this episode showed that visa-free travel works very well since it has led to excellent and effective cooperation by Belgian, Macedonian and Serbian authorities thanks to which the influx was stopped. According to official statements, EU member states remain committed to granting visa-free travel to Albania and Bosnia if these two countries meet all the roadmap conditions.

Besides Alexandra, the speakers at the conference were: Gledis Gjipali, Executive Director of EMA; Gazmend Turdiu, chief negotiator of the Albanian government for visa liberalisation and Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Thomas Von Handel, Head of the Political, Economic and Information Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Albania; Blerta Hoxha, policy researcher at EMA; and Sanja Kostovska, analyst at the Centre for Research and Policy Making (CRPM) in Macedonia.

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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