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The road to visa-free travel

"We acknowledge the importance the peoples of the Western Balkans attach to the perspective of liberalisation of the EU's visa regime towards them."

EU-Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki, 21 June 2003

Please note that this chronology is also available in Turkish.

Chronology

30 May 2011

Commission publishes its "post-visa liberalisation monitoring report". It assesses the progress made by the five Western Balkan countries in continuing the visa roadmap reforms, encouraging stronger efforts, and analyses the situation concerning asylum seekers from Serbia and Macedonia in the EU. The Commission suggests additional actions ranging from information campaigns to increased checks at the border.

24 May 2011

Commission proposes amending the visa regulation 539/2001 to introduce the option of suspending visa-free travel in a fast-track procedure, for half a year. The European Parliament and Council need to decide on the proposal.

3-6 May 2011

Commission and member state experts visit Macedonia to check on continued implementation of the roadmap reforms and the measures taken to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the EU.

26-29 April 2011

Commission and member state experts visit Serbia to check on continued implementation of the roadmap reforms and the measures taken to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the EU.

24/25 February

Commission presents its monitoring mechanism to the JHA Council. It will assess the implementation of measures taken by the Western Balkan countries during the visa liberalisation process and act as a prevention mechanism against new situations of high inflow of persons from the region.

21 December 2010

France and the Netherlands propose a change of Council Regulation 539/2001 that would allow for a suspension of visa-free travel in certain situations. The proposal is not accepted for the time being.

15 December 2010

Visa-free travel becomes effective for Bosnians and Albanians.

8 November 2010

Justice and Home Affairs Council adopts Commission proposal of 27 May 2010 (qualified majority voting) and thus lifts the visa requirement for Albania and Bosnia. At the same time, the Commission issues a statement committing itself to establishing a follow-up monitoring mechanism to monitor continued implementation of the roadmap conditions as well as inflows of asylum seekers or illegal migrants from the Western Balkans.

6/7 October 2010

European Parliament votes in favour of abolishing the visa requirement for Albania and Bosnia (538 MEPs voted in favour, 47 against, 41 abstained).

6 and 28 Sept. 2010

AFET and LIBE Committees of the EP vote in favour of the Commission proposal of 27 May 2011, which proposes visa-free travel for Albania and Bosnia.

14 Sept. 2010

Commission issues assessment concluding that Bosnia and Albania have met the remaining open benchmarks and qualify for visa-free travel.

2 Sept. 2010

During a briefing of the European Parliament's LIBE Committee, the Commission indicates that Albania and Bosnia have met the remaining open benchmarks.

July 2010

Commission to assess if Albania and Bosnia meet the outstanding benchmarks.

27 May 2010

Commission issues legislative proposal offering visa-free travel to Albania and Bosnia on condition that the two countries meet a few outstanding benchmarks in the coming weeks.

19 April 2010

Commission issues updated assessments for Albania and Bosnia. The assessments indicate that both countries have made substantial progress. There is only a limited number of outstanding benchmarks.

9 Feb. 2010

The European Council appoints the new European Commission 2010 – 2014 with the support of the European Parliament. The new Commissioners in charge of the visa liberalisation process for the Western Balkans are Ms Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Mr Stefan Fule, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy.

Feb. 2010

Further EU expert missions in Albania and Bosnia:
Bosnia, block 2: 8-12 Feb.
Bosnia, block 3: 15-19 Feb.
Albania, block 2: 22-26 Feb.
Albania, block 3: 8-12 Feb.
Block 4 was discussed with the authorities in writing.

19 Dec. 2009

Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia begin to enjoy visa-free travel to Schengen countries.

8 – 9 Dec. 2009

EU General Affairs Council "stresses that Kosovo should also benefit from the perspective of eventual visa liberalisation (without prejudice to Member States' positions on status) once all conditions are met and invites the Commission to move forward with a structured approach to bring the people of Kosovo closer to the EU".

7 – 17 Dec. 2009

EU national expert missions examine situation with regard to document security in Albania (14-17 Dec.) and Bosnia (7-11 Dec.)

30 Nov. 2009

Justice and Home Affairs Council votes on the Commission proposal (qualified majority voting), giving visa-free travel to Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

19 Nov. 2009

Commission issues positive report concerning Serbia's and Montenegro's compliance with the outstanding roadmap requirements.

12 Nov. 2009

European Parliament plenary adopts its (non-binding) opinion on the Commission proposal. It approves visa-free travel for Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro; urges a quick decision-making process for Albania and Bosnia and their symbolic placing on the white list already now; and demands a roadmap for Kosovo.  

4 November 2009

Slovenia proposes to grant visa-free travel to Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro as of 19 December 2009.

12 - 16 Oct. 2009

EU national expert missions to Serbia and Montenegro examine the situation on the ground.

1 Oct. 2009

Albania and Bosnia submit updated progress reports.

29 Sept. - 19 Oct. 2009

Responsible European Parliament committees discuss Commission proposal and adopt their opinions.

25 Sept. 2009

Montenegro and Serbia submit reports whether they meet the outstanding requirements.

15 July 2009

Commission submits proposal to introduce visa-free travel for Macedonia, as well as Serbia (without Kosovo residents) and Montenegro if the two countries meet a few outstanding requirements; no change for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina since they do not yet fulfil the roadmap conditions; Kosovo (which has not been part of the visa liberalisation process) to be added to the black list.

25 May 2009

Commission and representatives of EU member states (Coweb and visa  Council working groups) begin discussions of the assessments and the forthcoming Commission proposal.

18 May 2009

Commission finalises its updated assessments of roadmap implementation by each Western Balkan country and sends them, together with the reports from the expert missions, to the EU member states.

Jan.-March 2009

Expert missions including experts from the EU member states verify the situation on the ground in the Western Balkan countries, and seminars with MS experts discuss the Block 4 requirements.

Dec.-Jan. 2009

Western Balkan governments answer additional questions.

24 Nov. 2008

Commission presents assessments of visa roadmap implementation by the Western Balkan countries to a joint Coweb/justice and home affairs Council working group in Brussels and subsequently presents the assessments to the Western Balkan governments.

By 1 Sept. 2008

Western Balkan countries have to submit "readiness reports" and do so with a small delay.

5 June 2008

Visa roadmap presented to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

3 June 2008

Visa roadmap presented to Albania.

28 May 2008

Visa roadmap presented to Montenegro.

26 May 2008

Launch of the visa dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

8 May 2008

Visa roadmap presented to Macedonia.

7 May 2008

Visa roadmap presented to Serbia.

7 March 2008

Launch of the visa dialogue with Albania.

30 Jan. 2008

Launch of the visa dialogue with Serbia.

28 Jan. 2008

GAERC welcomes the Commission's intention to launch visa dialogues and define "detailed roadmaps setting clear benchmarks to be met by all the countries in the region in order to gradually advance towards visa liberalisation."

1 Jan. 2008

Visa facilitation and readmission agreements enter into force in the Western Balkan countries.

6 Nov. 2007

In its Enlargement Strategy, the Commission proposes to open visa liberalisation dialogues and establish visa roadmaps.

Sept.-Nov. 2007

Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are signed, approved by the Parliament, concluded by the Council and ratified by all Western Balkan countries.

18 June 2007

GAERC "acknowledged the importance the people of the Western Balkans attach to the perspective of visa-free movement. In this context, it welcomed the intention of the Commission to take these issues forward in concrete terms". This is the first clear indication that visa facilitation will be followed by visa liberalisation.

13 April – 16 May 2007

Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are agreed and initialled with all five Western Balkan countries.

20 Nov. 2006

Negotiations of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the Western Balkan countries are launched.

13/14 Nov. 2006

GAERC (EU foreign ministers) mentions that "visa facilitation and readmission agreements will be an important and necessary step forward" with regard to the visa issue.

13 Nov. 2006

Council gives go-ahead for the negotiation of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with all five Western Balkan countries.

20 July 2006

Commission presents to the Council draft mandates to negotiate visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Albania,1 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, too.

May 2006

European Commission requests the Council to authorise it to negotiate visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Macedonia, presenting the required negotiating mandate for adoption by the Council.

20 Dec. 2005

Council decides to account for “the EU's overall relationship with candidate countries, countries with a European perspective and countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy as well as strategic partners” when launching negotiation of visa facilitation and readmission agreements, opening the way for the negotiation of such agreements with the Western Balkan countries.

5 Nov. 2004

EU leaders endorse the Hague Programme, a new 5-year programme for justice and home affairs, and decide to examine the possibility of offering visa facilitation to third countries in exchange for readmission agreements.

21 June 2003

EU/Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki acknowledges "the importance the peoples of the Western Balkans attach to the perspective of liberalisation of the EU's visa regime towards them" and promises discussions with the Commission about the necessary reforms and requirements, but there is no serious follow-up.

 


[1] Only visa facilitation, a readmission agreement has been in force since 1 May 2006.

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