Saturday

18th Aug 2018

Germany and France demand reintroduction of Balkan visas

  • Six EU countries want to slap visa requirements on the Western Balkans (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Germany, France and four other EU countries want to reintroduce visa requirements for people from the Western Balkans, saying that the measure is needed to combat a spike in asylum claims from the region.

Ahead of next week's meeting of EU home affairs ministers, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands sent a letter to the European Commission asserting that thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia were delaying the system by claiming asylum with fake passports.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Speaking to reporters on Monday (15 October), Michele Cercone, spokesperson for EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, said that the "worrying situation" was creating "serious problems for the functioning of the asylum system.

He added that while only a "small minority are abusing the system" this was "crippling" it.

For her part, Tanja Fajon, a Slovenia centre-left deputy who is the European Parliament's rapporteur on visa liberalisation, said that new rules were likely to be adopted when EU interior ministers get together on 25 October.

The citizens of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have the right to travel to the Schengen area without visas.

Cercone stated that the "vast majority of migrants from Balkan countries were economic migrants rather than asylum seekers," with Serbia and Macedonia considered the major culprits.

Although Cercone refused to be drawn on precise numbers of fake asylum seekers from the region, he said that Germany had received 4,835 and Sweden 4,200 asylum claims in the first eight months of 2012 and, among these claims, those from the Western Balkans represented an "increasing trend."

The Serbian government reacted by saying that they were ready to compensate EU countries for costs caused by "fake asylum seekers" in their country, with Prime Minister Ivica Dacic stating that suspending visa free arrangements would punish honest claimants.

"This is about less than 10,000 asylum seekers in all of Europe. We will pay the costs for those 10,000 because that would be less damaging," he said.

"Everything will be done so that the visa liberalisation is not abolished," he added.

Conversely, ministers from eight former Soviet Bloc countries sent an open letter to their counterparts calling on the EU to relax rules on visas for Moldovans, praising the country for having offered "many proofs of their willingness and capacity to advance key reforms in line with the Republic of Moldova's European aspirations."

Although other eastern European countries, including Russia and Ukraine, are also keen to get visa-free access, the eight ministers asserted that Moldova had "consolidated its position as the frontrunner in the Eastern Partnership."

In their letter, the ministers said that agreement to move into the second phase of the EU's Visa Liberalisation Action Plan could be reached in November.

MEPs: Schengen row mars Danish EU presidency

Member states' decision to exclude the EU parliament from monitoring the EU's passport free area has blighted the entire Danish EU presidency, MEPs have said.

Opinion

EU must open its eyes to Balkan realities

The EU does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation in the Balkans, even though it has hundreds of diplomats and officials posted to the region, writes Jeton Zulfaj.

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

Eurozone ministers will discuss Greece this week, amid question marks over its next tranche of aid.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

The systemic risk that Europe has to face

One of the biggest systemic risks across Europe, illustrated by Hungary and Poland, is the dominance of the executive power over the judiciary and informal channels of political dependency.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us