Visa roadmaps - The road to visa-free travel

Baščaršija, Sarajevo. Photo: Alan Grant
Baščaršija, Sarajevo. Photo: Alan Grant

The visa roadmaps

Following the launch of the visa dialogues with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in early 2008, the European Commission formulated close to 50 requirements it wanted the countries to meet in order to qualify for visa-free travel. These were listed in the so-called "visa roadmaps". Serbia was the first country to receive its roadmap on 7 May 2008, and Bosnia the last on 5 June 2008.

The visa roadmaps were almost identical, but they took into account the specific situation in each country, in terms of existing legislation and practice. The conditions ranged from purely technical matters, such as the issuance of machine-readable passports with a gradual introduction of bio-metric data (including fingerprints), to the adoption and implementation of a raft of laws and international conventions, to very broad matters such as progress in the fight against organised crime, corruption and illegal migration.

Most of the requirements were part of the "JHA acquis" – the body of EU law in the field of justice and home affairs, which candidate countries have to implement before they can accede to the EU. However, there were a few additional conditions, mainly concerning human rights issues and the visa facilitation and readmission agreements.

The visa roadmaps were divided into two parts: requirements related to the implementation of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements; and requirements on document security, illegal migration, public order and security and external relations. The second part loosely follows the issues that Council Regulation 539/2001 mentions in paragraph (5):

"The determination of those third countries whose nationals are subject to the visa requirement, and those exempt from it, is governed by a considered, case-by-case assessment of a variety of criteria relating inter alia to illegal immigration, public policy and security, and to the European Union's external relations with third countries, consideration also being given to the implications of regional coherence and reciprocity."

This is the EU law that contains the Schengen black and white lists as annexes. It needs to be amended if the citizens of any of the five Western Balkan countries are to be able to enter the Schengen area without a visa.

When the Western Balkan governments received the roadmaps in the early summer of 2008, they were asked to provide "readiness reports" detailing the state of affairs with regard to each requirement by September 2008.


Visa liberalisation roadmaps: