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.