"If the USA abolishes visas for Kosovo citizens, it's a slap in the face to the EU"
If the United States abolish visas for Kosovo citizens, it would be a big slap in the face of the EU, Nemanja Starović from the Center for Social Stability saysSource: Kosovo online
He reiterated that the EU has not allowed the so-called Kosovo visa liberalization for a decade now.
Ahead of the visit of the special envoy of the President of the USA, Richard Grenell, to Belgrade and Pristina, the Albanian press announces that he could bring the abolition of American visas for citizens in Kosovo as a kind of gift.
Although there are no official announcements that this could really happen, it is worth considering the possible motivation for such an unconventional move by the world's largest power, as well as the practical implications, Starovic points out.
"Let us just remind ourselves that Hashim Thaci promised the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija back in 2010 that they would be able to travel to EU countries without visas within a maximum of 15 months, and that the interim self-government institutions in Pristina fulfilled all items from the long list of as many as 95 requests for visa liberalization", Starović points out.
According to him, it should be borne in mind that the United States still requires visas for citizens of some EU countries such as Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, and including Kosovo in the "Visa Waiver" program would violate the formal criteria for holding these EU countries in the visa regime.
"One of the key conditions for the abolition of visas for a country is lowering the rate of rejected visa applications below three percent. That rate was a high 37 percent for applicants from Kosovo and Metohija last year, while in Croatia, it was only four percent," Starovic said.
He believes that another important aspect is that the visa regime mainly refers to a country / territory and not to the type of travel document.
"This means that in principle, the abolition of American visas for citizens in Kosovo and Metohija should include both passport holders of the so-called Republic of Kosovo and passport holders of the Republic of Serbia residing in Kosovo and Metohija, which the United States recognizes as a valid travel document, a somewhat paradoxical situation that, say, Serbs from Kosovska Mitrovica with a passport of the Republic of Serbia are not covered by the visa liberalization of the EU, but that they can travel freely to the United States", Starović underlined.
He points out that even if US visas for the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija are abolished, official Belgrade should not view it as an act aimed at antagonizing Serbia, because it is primarily a new episode in the confrontation between transatlantic partners, "with modest practical implications."
"Namely, there are a small number of Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija who will have the needs and opportunities to stay in the United States, unlike the Schengen countries. In addition, the possible inclusion of Pristina in the visa suspension program could be an introduction to all Serbian citizens to travel to the United States without visas, since both Belgrade and Pristina accepted identical air traffic safety procedures with the Washington Agreement, and that there is no reason why the benefits of such a move would not be symmetrical for both sides", Starovic concluded.