Danielsson: Two conditions remain for visa liberalization for Kosovo

After a visit to Kosovo, the European Commission’s Director General of Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Christian Danielsson reinstated two conditions for visa liberalization – the border agreement with Montenegro and fight against organized crime and corruption.

Pristina - the capital Kosovo (Image by Arbenllapashtica/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pristina – the capital Kosovo (Image by Arbenllapashtica/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Danielsson met with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa yesterday (October 10) to discuss nation’s EU membership path. The issues of Kosovo’s strive for visa-free travel regime from EU was the main topic of the meeting. However Danielsson reaffirmed two of the EU’s main conditions for visa liberalization: serious government actions against organized crime and corruption as well as the ratification of a controversial bill on border deal with Montenegro, which caused tensions and political struggle in Kosovo.

The vote on Kosovo’s visa liberalization in European Parliament was primarily scheduled for June 2016, but was subsequently delayed for September. Tanja Fajon, the vice-president of S&D parliamentary group, explained that MEPs cannot support Kosovo’s case until the border deal with Montenegro issue is resolved.

The controversial border deal with Montenegro

The border deal signed by Kosovo and Montenegro governments in 2015 caused a stir and a severe political crisis in Kosovo. While Skupstina Crne Gore (Montenegro parliament) ratified the deal, in Kosovo the bill on ratifying the border agreement was met with a parliamentary blockade by the opposition.

The long disputed bill was finally submitted to Kosovo’s parliament on August 3 resulting in a heated debate and eventually escalating the political crisis in the country. The debate in parliament was followed by a tear-gas incident in parliament’s chamber, protests, grenade-launcher attack on building of the parliament and subsequently in a bomb planted in the house of MP Murat Meha.

The crisis revolves around claims by the opposition parties Vetevendosje and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Party (AAK) that the border deal with Montenegro will deprive Kosovo of 8,000 hectares of land. Vetevendosje party (self-determination in Albanian) denounces the deal as a “gift to Montenegro.”

On the other side the government claims the deal is favorable to Kosovo and its ratification will help further nation’s EU path.

Several EU and US officials, including US Vice-President, Joe Biden urged Kosovo’s MPs to ratify the bill – but the issue has not been resolved until today.

The two-day long (October 10 and 11) visit to Kosovo by Danielsson reaffirmed the EU’s stance on the importance of the bill on the border agreement with Montenegro for Kosovo’s EU membership talks and reinstated the pressure on Kosovo’s authorities to settle the issue.

(Written by Dejan Scepanovic; Editing by Wenzel Frick & Robyn Hunter)