Visa free travel to EU for Kosovo takes effect from monday

Visa free travel to EU for Kosovo takes effect from monday

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Visa free travel to EU for Kosovo takes effect from monday

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Visa free travel to EU for Kosovo takes effect from monday. The long-awaited visa liberalisation plan of the European Union, which allows Kosovo people to travel to Europe’s borderless zone without a visa, went into effect on Monday, with the first travelers welcoming it as a huge relief.

The new rule, which went into effect at midnight (2300 GMT Sunday), allows Kosovars to enter the passport-free Schengen zone without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

In Pristina, the change is seen as another step toward full recognition and a boost to the country’s aspirations to join the European Union after declaring independence in 2008.

“This is a huge relief… “It feels good,” businessman Rushit Sopi told AFP before boarding a trip from Pristina to Vienna.

He was one of 20 people who won a quiz organized by the government as part of a public awareness drive on the initiative.

The 48-year-old owner of a company that manufactures doors and windows travels to the EU virtually every week for business.

“I paid 300 euros ($331) for each visa.” I calculated that the EU visas alone cost me 2,500 euros when I last changed my passport.”

European embassies in Pristina, particularly those under intense pressure to grant visas, such as the German consulate, had planned for a visa-free D-Day.

German ambassador Jorn Rohde personally issued the final visas to Kosovars a few days ago, emphasizing that the visa era was “finally coming to an end.”

He also asked people to come to his country for the Euro football championship this summer.

‘Second-class citizens’

According to local surveys, Kosovars were looking forward to January 1 because they saw it as a “historic day” as their country moved closer to the EU.

However, they faulted both Brussels and Pristina for the lengthy delay in abolishing the visa restriction.

Kosovo, with a population of 1.8 million, was the last of the six Western Balkan countries to receive aid.

“Until now, Europe has treated us as second-class citizens,” said engineer Agim Gosalci, 61.

“Our politicians are also responsible for such a long wait because one of the conditions for visa liberalisation was the fight against corruption and organised crime,” said Adelina Kasolli, a 33-year-old translator.

Kosovo is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with average income slightly above 400 euros and youth unemployment exceeding 20%.

– Concerns about emigration

For the past two months, the Pristina government has been running a campaign warning people not to abuse their freedom of movement by looking for work in the EU.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti personally led the campaign, traveling throughout the country to highlight the merits of the new rule.

“Today is a significant day. “A great injustice is being removed, and a great right is being gained,” he told the quiz winners at the end of the evening.

The prime minister asked Kosovars to “respect the criteria, and wherever we go, let us remember that our home is Kosovo.”

Besnik Bislimi, his deputy in charge of European integration, warned against probable exploitation of the regime, which may lead to EU restrictive measures that would “harm the entire country.”

Many others are concerned that it will lead to even more labor shortages.

According to the Pristina-based Riinvest Institute, around 18% of private sector employees would quit their employment and attempt to emigrate this year.

Sopi’s firm could be affected, but on Monday he was more focused on Vienna, where he was taking his wife, who had never visited an EU country.

“The decision (to lift visas) has been made.”

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