Monday, October 25, 2010

Asylum rise puts Balkan visa-free scheme in danger

There has been a sharp increase in asylum applications from Serbia and Macedonia, which is causing concern in Belgium and Germany and could endanger the EU visa liberalisation scheme introduced last year.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has written to Serbian and Macedonian ministers responsible for interior affairs – Ivica Dacic and Gordana Jankolovska – to say their countries could lose permission for citizens to travel in the EU without a visa.

A rise in asylum applications could risk visa privileges for some Balkan states (Photo: johnnyalive)

She said the EU Commission, together with the Belgian EU Presidency, is considering organising a high-level mission later this month to confirm the situation on the ground.

"Almost 10 months have passed since the visa obligation for entering EU Schengen countries was lifted for citizens of your country," wrote Ms Malmstrom. "Some member states are once again experiencing an alarming increase of persons coming from your country and seeking asylum. This trend is extremely worrying and might seriously jeopardise the entire process of visa liberalisation in the Western Balkans."

Ms Malmstrom's letters – seen by WAZ.EUobserver, and which are largely identical – are a double warning. The situation could lead to a renewed visa regime for Serbian and Macedonian citizens, but it could also delay an EU decision to lift the visa regime for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.

"As you know, a post-visa liberalisation monitoring process has been put in place by the commission service since January 2010. Consideration is now being given to further step up this process, so as to enable the EU to take appropriate action if difficulties persist," wrote Ms Malmstrom...............................

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