Ruten: We will start negotiations for liberalization of visas for Kosovo before Christmas

schedule15:34 - 3 Dhjetor, 2022

schedule 15:34 - 3 Dhjetor, 2022

In an exclusive interview for ABC, Thijs Reuten, the rapporteur of the European Parliament on visa liberalization for Kosovo, expresses his position on the negotiations with the Czech presidency, which will lead to the final decision on the short-term visa-free movement for citizens of Kosovo in the Schengen area.  Reuten says that the negotiations with the Czech presidency will start before Christmas to move forward and finish this process.

MEP Thijs Reuten also spoke about the ETIAS system, which according to him, was a new rule that was put in the middle of the game.

Reuten says that he will fight that the candidate countries not to pay for ETIAS for long-term visas.

ABC: European Union ambassadors approved a negotiating mandate for short-term visa-free movement for Kosovo. Now the Czech presidency must negotiate with the European Parliament. You are the rapporteur of the European Parliament for visa liberalization for Kosovo.

First, how do you think about the decision of the ambassadors?

Thijs Reuten: “It is fantastic that this agreement was finally reached. It is a long-term obligation towards Kosovo.

It is a decision that should have been made many years ago, as Kosovo has fulfilled the criteria for many years.

I am glad we took this step. The Czech Presidency has established contacts with my office. It is clear that the European Parliament will not be a blocking factor. We are ready to negotiate as soon as possible, hopefully before Christmas to move forward and finish this process. We must ensure that the citizens of Kosovo benefit from visa liberalization as soon as possible.

I hope that finally, this country that was left out of visa liberalization will benefit from this. It is a positive news.

We needed this. We need good news in the Western Balkans, as it is imperative that we bring the region closer to us as soon as possible and put it on the right path for EU membership when the conditions are met.

This step is truly historic, as it will make it possible for Albanian from Kosovo to travel more easily to meet their family and to visit EU countries as well.

There will be more contact, more interaction, this is really important and we need it.”

ABC: One of the concerns about this decision was the connection between the entry into force of the decision on visa liberalization for Kosovo and the ETIAS system. What do you think about this?

Thijs Reuten: “Personally, I think that ETIAS is another example, which shows how a new rule is established in the middle of the game.

This was not what the European Parliament asked for. We expected this step and did not at all hope that new conditions would be put on the table.

ETIAS illustrates exactly one of those conditions. But now let’s give our blessing to the decision, because we have a historic decision for Albanian from Kosovo. Finally, we will have the liberalization of visas for them.

We hope that ETIAS will enter into force as soon as possible, since now that the issue is related to ETIAS we must ensure that the citizens of Kosovo benefit as soon as possible.

In any case, no later than January 2024, but hopefully before that date.  It was not my choice that the process was linked to ETIAS.

ETIAS even becomes a problem for other countries in the region, as it is a kind of new visa application burden with a certain cost. I did not choose this, so I will have to fight for this too.

My proposal is to exclude the candidate countries and Kosovo, which is getting closer to the EU, from paying 7 euros when they apply for visa, since the candidate countries should have different treatment from other countries of the world”.

ABC: As rapporteur of the European Parliament, will you change the date when should be entry into force? Do you have the mandate to change the date, as it will complicate the process even if you would like to do so?

Thijs Reuten: This is a fair point. As I said, we as the European Parliament are committed to visa liberalization for Kosovo.

What we do not want is to create a situation where there is further delay in the process. So we want to do it as soon as possible.

If there is an opportunity to slightly improve the proposal, I will do it, but always keeping in mind the perspective of the citizens of Kosovo, as they deserve it.

They deserve it for years, but now we have to do it as soon as possible”.

ABC: How long will last this procedure?

Thijs Reuten: It depends on the speed with which each of them does his work. We will do it as soon as possible.

We will start discussions with the Czech presidency hopefully before Christmas. After that we will encourage everyone to advance as soon as possible. Even if it is not within my competence, I will push the parties forward, to take the decision is taken as soon as possible”.