BRUSSELS -- The European Union has asked Western Balkans and EU Eastern Partnership countries that have visa-free regimes with the bloc's Schengen zone to take further measures to address irregular migration, as well as urging Georgia to do more to prevent unfounded asylum applications and calling on Ukraine to step up its fight against corruption.
The exhortations came in the European Commission's annual report, published on December 19, on the functioning of the visa-free regime with Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine.
While the commission stated that all eight continued to fulfill the visa-liberalization benchmarks, meaning that steps to suspend visa-free travel will not be taken, the report contained criticism of the Eastern Partnership countries in particular.
Moldova "should take immediate steps to counter money laundering and Ukraine to fight corruption" while "the increasing number of unfounded asylum applications in the EU from Moldovan and Georgian citizens is a source of concern," it said.
Ukraine must "take immediate action to ensure the continuous fulfillment of the anticorruption benchmark, as well as to address irregular migration challenges," the report said.
It also said that irregular migration from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the EU remains high.
The visa waiver applies to all EU countries except for Britain and Ireland, and also includes non-EU states Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
It enables citizens of the states with visa liberalization to enter these countries without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period if they hold a biometric passport.
The countries of the Western Balkans received visa liberalization in 2009-10, followed by Moldova in 2014, and Georgia and Ukraine in 2017.
Citizens of Kosovo are still without a visa-free regime, despite a positive report from the European Commission earlier this year. Some EU member states are reluctant to grant any benefits to Pristina before the European Parliament elections in May 2019, EU officials and diplomats have told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity.
EU Criticizes Western Balkans, Eastern Neighbors Over Migration