Talk at COWEB in Brussels on visa free travel for the countries of the Western Balkans

I gave a presentation advocating the abolishment of the visa regime for the Western Balkans to COWEB, the Council working group with Western Balkan experts from the EU member states.

The Balkans in 2007 is a very different region from the Balkans in 1997:

  • there is no evidence that a country like Bosnia is “at the centre” of transnational organised crime, as is sometimes argued.
  • most outsider’s images about anarchy in Albania are outdated.
  • introducing visa-free travel for Macedonians (2 million people), Montenegrins (600,000), Bosnians (less than 4 million people) or 3 million Albanians is a small risk and in other cases (Bulgaria and Romania) the importance of this step for their overall (successful) transformation is unquestioned.

I concluded by suggesting to put all countries of the Western Balkans on the “white Schengen list” immediately with an asterix (*). The same was done for Romania in 2001. Under this proposal the asterix would indicate that once conditions defined in country-specific road maps were met, visa free travel would follow.

This would send a powerful political message at a moment when the EU needs maximum leverage in the region.

Read more on this presentation in the Rumeli Observer Blog entry “Peddling ideas around Schuman”

Border fence between Albania and Macedonia
 Border fence between Albania and Macedonia

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