Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Milanović: Kosovo's Citizens Should be Able to Travel Freely

Adelina Marini, November 8, 2012

Croatia has offered its services for finding a common language between Serbia and Kosovo, without however being a mentor. This emerged during the first official visit in Zagreb of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi on November 6th. Premier Zoran Milanović said before media after his meeting with Thaçi that Kosovo was surrounded by countries with which it sought a common language, most of all with Serbia and this is why patience would be needed and mutual trust "which is easier said than done". Croatia wishes both Belgrade and Pristina good, he added sticking to the politically correct usage of the names of the capital cities rather than country names, which is a gesture toward Serbia thtat does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state. Croatia was among the first countries to recognise the independence of the former Serbian province in a joint declaration with Bulgaria and Hungary. This happened a month after the proclamation of the independence - March 19th and led to a resignation of Deputy PM Slobodan Uzelac from the Independent Serbian Democratic Party (SDSS) from Ivo Sander's government.

Zoran Milanović did not elaborate how exactly could Croatia help, especially without being a mentor, but to a question of a journalist from the Kosovo national TV to what extent Croatia could, after becaming member of the EU (planned for the 1st of July 2013), to support Kosovo on its European path, Zoran Milanović chose an odd answer: "It can a lot. The question is whether it would want. It would". The meeting between Milanović and Thaçi took place on the eve of the meeting in Brussels between the Kosovo premier and his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic with the mediation of Baroness Catherine Ashton in an attempt to continue the Belgrade-Pristina facilitated dialogue. In order for this to happen, however, Hashim Thaçi insists Serbia to implement the technical agreements reached in the past two years since the facilitated dialogue had been launched. Belgrade, for its part, is preparing a plan of its own for resolution of the Kosovo issue, which is not welcomed in Kosovo:

From the brief statement of the EU high representative for foreign policy, it becomes clear that the countries agreed "to continue the work for full implementation of all the agreements". According to Lady Ashton, the talks were open and frank and evolved around "different aspects of normalisation of relations between the two sides and both Prime Ministers committed to continue the talks". The concrete topics, covered during the talks, were transparency of the funds Serbia provides to the Serbian community in Kosovo, protection of the Serbian cultural and religious heritage there, and establishing a joint technical working group to prepare a feasibility study for the construction of a motorway between Niš and Pristina.

Croatia's Prime Minister Zoran Milanović paid special attention precisely on the possibility for free movement of the Kosovo citizens for whom still there is a visa regime. The visa issue for the citizens of the Balkan countries is highly sensitive, especially lately when a growing number of EU member states began complaining from the notable growth of "unjustified" asylum applications from the region, especially from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. More frequent are the calls the visa regime to be reinstated for the countries of the Western Balkans. This is why EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle called recently on the countries in the region to take the issue seriously in order to prevent that.

The Kosovo case, however, is different. The European Commission prepared a special road map for the country for visa liberalisation, which tables several conditions. When fulfilled, the visa dialogue can start. One of the conditions the EU very much insists on is progress in terms of readmission and reintegration. Readmission requires from Kosovo to conclude bilateral readmission agreements to ensure that it will be able to return illegal migrants to countries of origin. Kosovo has to work too on biometric passports and to strengthen border control and immigration management.

According to Zoran Milanović, although the situation at the moment in the EU is more nervous, conditions should apply for all equally. The Kosovo citizens should not be left isolated, moreover that they are looking for alternative solutions that create paradoxes. For example, the Croatian prime minister explained, many Kosovars circumvent the regime because they have double citizenship. Zoran Milanović also spoke of EU's "territorial illogicality".

In spite of the support Zoran Milanović stated for Kosovo's European integration, he underlined that Croatia would fight for the integration of all countries in the region.

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