H.E. AGRON BAJRAMI
AMBASSADOR OF KOSOVO TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM, THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
"Our strategic orientation is Euro-Atlantic integration. We have no doubts about this"
Let us start with some (long overdue) good news. Following agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on a proposal by the Commission, passport holders from Kosovo will be allowed to travel to the EU without a visa (for maximum 90 days in any 180-day period) starting on January 1, 2024.
We are happy that by the end of this year, the visa regime will be lifted for citizens of Kosovo, and I hope this will only improve our relations with EU. We are glad that this agreement is concluded because it was long overdue, as you well say. It was a unanimous decision of the Council, and this is a very good sign because it means that all 27 Member States of the EU supported visa free regime for Kosovo.
The importance of this process is manifold because Kosovo citizens will finally be able to move freely, to enjoy, to see and to communicate with Europe. This is particularly important for our young people. It gives our society the full taste of freedom that we have lacked so far. At the same time, it is proof that in a relationship with the European Union (EU), when you commit yourself and achieve the standards that are requested and required, there are benefits to be derived.
Of course, we fulfilled the conditions for visa liberalisation five years ago. The European Commission itself has said several times in official reports that Kosovo has complied with all the rules, regulations and fulfilling conditions. Unfortunately, the Member States were not able to come to this decision for a long time. Until now. This is a sign to us that it is well worth to engage.
It is important because we have a long list of things we want to achieve, and with this objective completed and out of the way, it leaves more room for other political processes to be attended to, most notably EU candidacy.
Towards the end of last year, during the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, we submitted our candidacy for EU membership. This is a natural step for us, a step that underlines our strategic orientation, that is to stay, that we belong to Europe and we belong to the EU. It also underlines the fact that we are ready for this step. All the relevant reports, including European Parliament and EU Commission reports, are identifying steady progress in all relevant fields, those relevant to the EU and to our society: rule of law, democracy, human rights, economy, etc. Progress is therefore visible, recorded and shown in these reports. And this makes us a very credible candidate for EU membership.
We think that in the current geopolitical context, Kosovo's EU candidacy would help not only us but the region as a whole. We hope that our application will be dealt with as soon as possible, that EU Presidency will provide us with the questionnaire, and then the process will move forward.
For our citizens, and for citizens of the EU, it is important to see that the Kosovo of today is not the Kosovo of 15-20 years ago. Our improvement is solid and sustainable. We have been politically stable for over two years and we are ready to keep this course. The only crisis is the one in our relations with Serbia. In every other field, we are comfortably moving, progressing forward in a positive direction.