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Last Updated:[26-05-2009 08:50:38 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

The EU Likely to Provide Visa-free Travel for Macedonians

tradenews According to the European Commission's (EC) assessment report, posted on the official website of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) stated Macedonia had been able to fulfil the required criteria to enter the visa-free regime. ESI is a non-profit institute that conducts analyses and research in line with the EU to ensure prosperity and stability of Europe.

The ESI statement said except Macedonia none of the other Western Balkan states were able to meet the benchmarks to come under visa-free regime. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s speedy liberalization process in the areas including document security, internal stability, re-enforcement of the borders in terms of asylum and migration and strict adherence to human rights issues makes them eligible candidate for visa-free travel across the EU states. Besides, the country is understood to have issued 40 percent biometric passports, a mandate needed to be fulfilled by all EU member-states by July this year.

Macedonians spend 5mn Euros every year on Schengen visas which help them to travel across 15 countries in the EU. Visa-free travel is expected to eliminate not only the expenses incurred while application but also the cumbersome procedure involved in obtaining visa to each and every country of one’s travel.

It should be recalled that last month, foreign Ministers of Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania sent a joint letter to the EC urging them to include all Western Balkan states that met the criteria to the visa-free regime by early 2010. Visa liberalization to these countries is expected to boost trade and tourism of several European countries closer to these states.

Only country that has visa-free access among the Western Balkans is Croatia. Though Serbia has met all the benchmarks of the roadmap is being held up by the Netherlands over Belgrade's cooperation with an international war crimes court. However, since last year the Serbians enjoy the ease of obtaining visas to students, athletes, journalists, people visiting family or working with companies in the EU.

The visa restrictions were imposed as an aftermath of Yugoslav wars in 1990’s. Currently, the citizens of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia need visas to travel to the EU.

By Jose Roy

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