July 17, 2009
The European Commission proposal to extend visa freedom to Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia is to be welcomed. The European Council is expected to give its green light as soon as October so that the visa-free access to the EU can become effective by January 2010.
The three countries had to work hard for it: issue biometrical passports, control organised crime and guarantee the supervision of external borders, essentially airports, for Montenegro also the sea coast.
It is a major step towards bringing these three countries back into the European fold, after their traumatic experience of the 1990s. Yugoslav citizens had enjoyed visa-free entry to most European countries before the break-up of the country almost 20 years ago!
It will give hope to the young generation who have been confined for too many years to a state of harmful isolation. They will interpret it as a first step towards EU membership, for which they will have to wait a few more years.
From 2010 onwards only Albania and Bosnia, Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Turkey will remain outside what will be a visa-free area of continental dimensions.
Hopefully, European media will duly register Schengen, which has started in 1984 with only five member states (Belgium France, Germany, Luxembourg and Netherlands), as a major contribution to bringing European citizens closer to each other.
And one wonders how many more years it will take the UK and Ireland to acknowledge the advantages of Schengen and finally also join!
Brussels, 16.07. 09 Eberhard Rhein