21st Oct 2016

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.

News in Brief

  1. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  2. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  3. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  4. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  5. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  6. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting
  7. Tusk: 'Concrete' migration proposals in December summit
  8. Commuters seek compensation for Swedish ID checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  2. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  3. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  4. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  5. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion

Latest News

  1. Women shake Poland's pillars of power
  2. Malta, Latvia, and Hungary top EU obesity charts
  3. British PM asserts her role in EU 'nest of doves'
  4. Italy shields Russia from EU sanctions threat
  5. EU and Wallonia still stuck on Canada accord
  6. Dieselgate isn't my fault, says German transport minister
  7. Scotland plans independence vote before Brexit
  8. EU threatens Russia over Syria 'atrocities'