EU lifts visa requirement for Albanians and Bosnians

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WASHINGTON – The European Union has agreed to lift its visa requirement for citizens of Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The move was announced this week by EU interior ministers; they agreed that the visa requirement will be lifted in “mid-December.”

The EU decision means holders of biometric Bosnian and Albanian passports can travel freely for up to three months in the “Schengen zone”, which includes all EU member states with the exception of Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania, as well as non-EU members Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland.

Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro have been on the EU visa-free list since December 19, 2009.

Many observers see today’s decision as an historic step toward ultimately bringing the Balkan region into the European Union. Visa matters are subject to majority votes in the EU. The EU interior ministers said in a statement that the group will carefully monitor the situation and, if necessary, could “suspend” the newly won right of citizens of Bosnia and Albania to travel without visas. Bosnian and Albanian authorities have warned their citizens that visa-free travel in the EU is not intended for the purpose of seeking asylum or jobs.