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European Commission Says Kosovo Qualifies For Visa-Free Travel In Europe


European Commissioner for Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos (left) and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci in Brussels on July 18.

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission says Kosovo has met all required benchmarks for its citizens to qualify for visa-free travel within Europe's Schengen zone.

But the proposal on visa liberalization for Kosovo must first be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council, where several EU member states remain skeptical.*

The European Commission noted on July 18 that Pristina has fulfilled the last two remaining conditions to qualify -- a strengthened record in the fight against corruption and organized crime, and the ratification in March of a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro.

EU Commissioner on Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos told journalists on July 18 that Kosovo has "made great progress over the last two years to fulfill the two remaining visa liberalization requirements."

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci welcomed the development at a press conference in Brussels on July 18, saying "the collapse of the last wall of isolation has begun" for Kosovo.

The EU Commission had given a conditional recommendation for Kosovo in April 2016, together with Georgia and Ukraine. Georgia and Ukraine gained visa-free status with the EU in 2017.

Kosovo is the only non-EU country in the Western Balkans that has not yet achieved visa-free status with the EU.

While the European Parliament is likely to vote in favor of the proposal, the process could drag on within the Council of Europe, sources in Brussels told RFE/RL on July 18.

The European Council is in charge of the EU's overall political direction and priorities and acts as a collective presidency. The council comprises the heads of state or government of the member states, along with the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Sources say both France and the Netherlands have been reluctant to commit to visa liberalization for Kosovo before elections to the European Parliament in May 2019.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that the proposal on visa liberalization must first be approved by the Council of Europe, instead of the European Council.
With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels and RFE/RL's Balkan Service
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