The European Union is fully committed to safeguarding visa-free travel for citizens of the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries and is working together with their governments towards this goal. So said Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, on December 20.
He was referring to the Commission’s reporting on the continuous fulfilment of the visa liberalisation benchmarks by the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro and Serbia) as well as the Eastern Partnership countries (Georgiam Moldova and Ukraine). The report shows that, whilst the visa liberalisation requirements for the countries concerned continue to be fulfilled, action is required in a number of specific areas to preserve their sustainable implementation.
“While we acknowledge the efforts of these countries to ensure that the progress made is sustained and that reforms continue to deliver concrete results, further work is needed,” said Avramopoulos. “We expect all countries to step up their efforts to address irregular migration and fight organised crime and corruption in particular.”
The Commission’s report is the first assessment under the new monitoring mechanism for the eight countries that have concluded visa liberalisation dialogues with the EU. The assessment shows that all eight Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries have demonstrated strong commitment to meeting the necessary requirements and have undertaken important efforts to implement a number of far-reaching reforms set out under the visa liberalisation process.
According to the Commission, it is now imperative that those reforms are sustained and that the countries do not backtrack on their achievements.
For the Western Balkans, the new report replaces the previous post-visa liberalisation monitoring reports and covers the period since the last such report from February 2015. For the Eastern Partnership countries, the report covers the period since the final visa liberalisation progress reports adopted in December 2013 for Moldova and in December 2015 for Georgia and Ukraine.
Citizens of Montenegro, Serbia and FYROM can travel to the EU without a visa since December 2009. For citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, this is possible since the end of 2010. For the Republic of Moldova visa-free travel entered into force in April 2014, for Georgia in March 2017 and for Ukraine in June 2017.