Civil activists in an open letter to parliamentarians and EU representatives: Vote in favour of visa liberalization for Kosovo

Over twenty Kosovo civil activists, journalists, publicists, artists, athletes and scientists sent an open letter to European representatives, urging the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and EU member states to vote in favour of visa liberalization for Kosovo. They are „hoping“ that this decision will be made this month and they listed four reasons why they should vote for it. At the same time, they stated: „Any eventual postponement of the Council’s decision on visa liberalisation will seriously undermine the ambition of Kosovo’s society for European integration and will be widely accepted as blatant discrimination against Kosovo’s citizens in relation to the other countries in the region.

“ Letter, published by one of the signatories – journalist Adriatic Kelmendi on his Facebook account – we are publishing originaly.

„Honourable Commissioners, MEPs and Ministers of the Member States of the European Union,

The citizens of Kosovo are the only ones in Europe who do not enjoy the right to freedom of movement within the Schengen area.

It has been a decade since our country has undergone reforms fulfilling specific conditions in the framework of the liberalisation process.

This statement is supported by:
Adriatik Kelmendi, Publicist
Ariana Cosaj Mustafa, Civil society activist
Artan Demhasaj, Civil society activist
Astrit Gasi, Publicist
Berat Buzhala, Publicist
Dastid Palaska, Lawyer
Dusan Radakovic, Civil society activist
Eliza Hoha, Artist
Fadil Vokri, President of Football Federation
Fahredin Spahija, Photograph
Igbale Rugova, Civil society activist
Imer Muskoljaj, Publicist
Ismet Krieziu, Civil society activist
Jehona Lusaku, Political scientist
Jeton Neziraj, Producer
Kustrim Sadiku, Journalist
Lulzim Peci, Civil society activist
Majlinda Kelmendi, Olympic medal winner in Judo
Oda Haljiti, Artist
Petrit Zogaj, Civil society activist
Sibel Haljimi, Sociologist
Uta Ibrahimi, Alpinist
Zake Preljvukaj, Artist

Thousands of students, successful personalities of art, culture, and sport still have to be subjected to the visa regime, limiting them for certain periods of time.

Family members are not able to visit their own families, other places and cities.

Nor do they have the chance to get acquainted with European cultural values meanwhile they teach their children that Kosovo’s vision is in the European Union.

Very few young people in Kosovo have been fortunate enough to see any European country at all as study visits are extremely difficult to implement because of the harsh visa regime.

In Kosovo there is a perception that while the EU has submitted special requests it is discriminating against Kosovo as far as visa liberalisation is concerned.

We have gone through a political blockade for three consecutive years due to the issue of the border demarcation with Montenegro, a criterion set during the liberalisation process.

Almost 80,000 Kosovo citizens of the Republic of Serbia are still subjected to the visa regime of the Schengen zone, these are the holders of passports from the Koordinaciona Uprava.

As per the data from NGO AKTIV’s research „Zone of special passports“, between 16th August, 2007. and 6th March, 2016, the Coordination Board (Koordinaciona Uprava) issued 76,807 such Republic of Serbia passports.

These passports are not recognized by the Kosovo authorities either.

Under the Kosovo Constitution, Serbs have the right to „dual citizenship“, but, in practice, Serbs cannot exercise this right through using these valid travel documents.

Kosovo citizens with a Serbian passport can travel abroad only if they take a trip that starts outside of the territory of Kosovo, and it also applies to the holders of the Serbian visa free passport with Kosovo cities registered in them.

It is precisely this problem, the non-recognition of the Serbian passports, particularly the ones issued in Koorordinaciona Uprava, that was repeatedly highlighted by the non-governmental organization AKTIV from the North of Kosovo. However, to date, the Serbian civil sector in Kosovo has not initiated a concrete initiative for the eventual solution to this problem.

This issue, apart from polarising the political scene, has divided citizens, has increased uncertainty, lowering trust towards the Kosovar political parties and the authorities of Brussels.

Despite the high sensitivity of this issue, we have found it within ourselves to approve the Demarcation Agreement, as it was the criterion specifically required for visa liberalisation.

Now, dear European parliamentarians and ministers of European Union member states, as you stand before deciding on visa liberalisation for the citizens of Kosovo.
We, as a civil society of Kosovo, call on you to make a decision on visa liberalisation for Kosovo, for, among other things, the following reasons:

1. The citizens of Kosovo are the only ones of the entire region to whom the Schengen visa regime applies, despite our social will for the European integration process.
2. As a society we are losing great chances of transformation based on European models because we are deprived of the opportunity to exchange the experience with citizens of EU member states.
3. We have found that the isolation of youth has been a driving factor for their inclusion in radical and extremist organisations, especially those based in the Middle East.
4. And, most importantly, we think that Kosovo has met the measurable criteria derived from the visa liberalisation process.

We expect the final assessment report on visa liberalisation to be positive and we call on the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and especially the EU member states to vote in favour of visa liberalisation for Kosovo citizens.

We support the EU’s goal of establishing control over the migration flow and introducing mechanisms for the suspension of visa liberalisation, as it is applicable to other states. We consider that Kosovo does not pose a migration risk for the EU.

Given that the European Union will hold the elections early next year, we hope that this decision will be taken in June this year, so that Kosovar citizens – biometric passports holders – will enjoy the right to short-term travel without a visa in the Schengen Area.

Any eventual postponement of the Council’s decision on visa liberalisation will seriously undermine the ambition of Kosovo’s society for European integration and will be widely experienced as blatant discrimination against Kosovo’s citizens in relation to the region too.

Therefore, Honourable MEPs and Ministers of EU Member States, we call upon the EU member states to approve the decision as soon as technically possible and to decide on visa liberalisation for Kosovo citizens.“

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