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Albania’s Meta Rejects Kosovo’s Passport Plea

Facing an intransigent parliament, Kosovo leader Thaci sought help from Tirana.

12 October 2017

Albanian President Ilir Meta has turned down a request from a close ally to issue Albanian passports to Kosovan citizens.

 

The request came from Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, in an attempt to allow the citizenry ─ who are mainly ethnic Albanian ─ to travel in the European Union without visas, The Associated Press reports.

 

“I think that this is not a solution for Kosovo citizens, because fulfillment of the visa criterion is necessary for the integration of Kosovo into the EU,” Albanian President Ilir Meta said at a press conference in Pristina yesterday, Kosovo’s Gazeta Express reports.

 

Kosovo is the only Balkan country whose citizens require visas for short-term visits to the Schengen area, which most EU countries are part of.

 

The European Union has cited Kosovo’s delay in approving a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro as a reason for keeping the visa rules in place.

 

A deal between the two nations has been on hold for almost two years as opposition lawmakers in Kosovo refuse to ratify it, arguing that Kosovo would lose territory.

 

A map of ethnic Albanians in the Balkans. Image via en:User:Scooter20 and en:user:Ssschhh/Wikimedia Commons.

 

“I don’t see a solution of the current situation through this Parliament, that’s why I ask Mr. President to issue Albanian passports to Kosovo citizens, based on the constitution,” Thaci said, Top Channel reports.

 

Solving the border dispute would grease the skids for Kosovo’s overriding national priority of gaining full international recognition and EU membership.

 

“Ratification will allow Kosovo citizens to move freely in EU countries and it would have substantial impact on strengthening [Kosovo’s] sovereignty and territorial integrity by marking the border with another neighbor,” Kosovo’s prime minister, Isa Mustafa, told Balkan Insight earlier this year.

 

Mustafa was likely exaggerating the benefits of a future visa deal. The visa-free arrangements with other non-EU countries in the Balkans, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova allow travel to the Schengen area only for tourist visits and some other categories and do not permit travelers to work in the EU.

 

 

  • A border surveying commission in Kosovo concluded in February that lands opposition lawmakers claimed would be lost to Montenegro were in fact never part of Kosovo, Balkan Insight wrote.

 

  • Corruption and transparency of the judicial system constitute other serious hurdles in Kosovo’s legitimacy campaign. The government reluctantly agreed to a special court to try Kosovans suspected of war crimes during the 1998-2000 conflict with Serbia, but the Netherlands-based tribunal has yet to hold any trials.

 

  • Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has added to calls from Balkan neighbors to speed the region’s integration in the EU and NATO. The EU should begin accession talks with Albania and Macedonia by early 2018, he said yesterday, as well as offer “realistic and attainable integration goals and timetables” for Bosnia and Kosovo, Reuters reports.
Compiled by Claudia Harmata
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