Wednesday

28th Jun 2017

Balkan visa-free regime under scrutiny

EU ministers of interior are set to discuss visa policy in Brussels on Thursday (6 December) with several member states wanting to reintroduce visas for passport holders from Western Balkan countries.

Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands say migrants from the region are abusing the current visa-free system by requesting asylum, reports the AP.

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.

  • The number of asylum seekers from the Balkans in Europe have dropped in the past year but peaked in May, says the EU's border control agency (Photo: wikipedia)

Each asylum application request has to be examined, they say, creating large caseloads and backlogs.

Around 60,000 people from the region have reportedly requested asylum throughout Europe in the past three years. The numbers have dropped in the past year but peaked in May, says the EU's border control agency, Frontex.

A safe-guard clause in the visa regulation can waive the visa-free regime should member states experience a “sudden high inflow of irregular migrants or a sudden increase of unfounded asylum requests from a third country.”

“Some EU member states have experienced seasonal waves of increasing number of asylum seekers following the decisions taken at the end of 2009 and 2010 to grant visa-free travel to the Western Balkan countries,” noted a commission report in August.

Meanwhile, many Balkan asylum seekers end up in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Those requesting asylum most frequently cite unemployment, lack of health care and lack of schooling for their children.

All but a handful have their applications rejected.

Passports holders from Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are free to enter the EU without a visa since December 2009. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina have enjoyed the same rights since December 2010.

In once instance, a village in Macedonia’s Lipkovo region had nearly emptied out and moved to Brussels. The village mayor told this reporter in March 2010 that some 42 children were no longer in school. Their parents, he said, had all purchased one-way bus tickets to Brussels.

Poverty, lack of development, had pushed entire families to ask for asylum with an aim to seek a better future for their children in Belgium’s capital. “Better to sleep in a bus station in Brussels than here,” said one elder. Some of the village homes had no running water.

The village, also called Lipkovo, was still pock-marked with bullet holes and damage sustained during fierce fighting in 2001 between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian security forces.

Many of those who ended up in Brussels were later returned. Some were sleeping rough in the corridors and halls along with other nationalities at its North train station, near a Belgian asylum office.

Ethnic Albanians flee poverty after EU visa move

Ethnic Albanians from the war-ravaged Likove region in Macedonia are fleeing to Belgium after the EU dropped visa requirements in December, but their journey is leading to disappointment.

Luxembourg not a tax haven, claims PM

The prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, maintains that his country had broken no rules and committed no crime when issuing rulings that slashed global tax bills for the big firms.

Border management going virtual

EU leaders at a summit in Brussels are set to endorse new border control measures, while the head of a Tallinn-based EU agency predicts a future where border management goes virtual.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEGet the Latest News from the 2017 Estonian EU Council Presidency @EU2017EE
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Against Critical Voices
  3. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  4. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  6. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  7. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  8. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  9. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  10. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  11. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  12. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!