Monday

24th Apr 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  2. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  3. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning
  4. Land mine kills OSCE observer in Ukraine
  5. Italy prosecutor claims NGOs are working with migrant smugglers
  6. Danish defence hacked by Russian cyberspies
  7. EU trade commissioner in US to pick up TTIP talks
  8. Juncker to meet Soros on Hungary next week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  2. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  3. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  4. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  5. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  6. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  7. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  9. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  10. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  11. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society

Latest News

  1. Le Pen-Poutine: des liens qui remontent à loin
  2. Juncker breaks tradition with support for Macron
  3. Les fake news inondent les réseaux sociaux français
  4. Les amis de Le Pen à la Trump Tower
  5. France's election run-off will be far-right versus EU
  6. Alternative for Germany party refuses to shun extreme right
  7. Brexit summit, Turkey and Hungary dominate EU This WEEK
  8. Russia threat triggers European military spending hike