Saturday, July 18, 2009

Visa Free Travel In Europe

Some, but not all Balkan countries shall soon become eligible for visa free travel throughout Europe.

The sacred word: visa by Hajrudin Somun explores the complexities of this.

Besides Slovenia, Greece is the only Balkan country that is a member of both the EU and the Schengen area. Greeks, however, support the process of ending visa restriction for all other Balkan states, but they are also skeptical, worrying that it would increase economic migration and organized crime in their country.

Obviously, visa free travel will facilitate smuggling.

Complexities will abound:
That is why Serbia may join the EU before Bosnia and Herzegovina, continue the EU accession process without recognizing Kosovo's independence and see its citizens travel without a visa to Europe before the children of Srebrenica victims get the opportunity to do the same. The Bosnian case even becomes ironic when one considers what will happen once Serbia is rewarded with visa-free travel to Europe. Bosnian Croats already have the opportunity to enjoy visa-free travel to Europe with their Croatian passports, which they use more frequently than their Bosnian ones, even participating in Croatian elections. Now that Serbia is close to receiving the same treatment as Croatia, Bosnian Serbs will have the same privilege because they have the right to get Serbian passports. Only Bosniaks will be incapable of traveling without a visa to Europe in the foreseeable future. It will then be easy to recognize the people waiting from dawn in front of the German and Austrian embassies in Sarajevo to get a visa. They will only be Bosniaks -- Bosnian Muslims. This gives the image an even broader meaning.

Kosovo has still not been considered for any EU recommendation in regard to visa liberalization as it was not recognized by all EU countries nor accepted to the UN. Furthermore, its ethnic makeup differs from the Bosnian case. It is quite normal for the minority of Kosovo Serbs -- only 5 percent of the population -- to keep their Serbian passports because, at the end of the day, Kosovo is still formally considered by Belgrade as part of Serbia. It is, however, unusual that many Kosovo Albanians are taking out Serbian travel documents as well. There are around half a million Kosovars who live in Europe and come to visit relatives in Kosovo via Serbia, which does not recognize their Kosovo passports, forcing them to take out Serbian ones.

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