Why was the need for an urgent harmonization of Serbia's visa policy with the European Union highlighted recently and whether this could have consequences for the visa-free regime enjoyed by Serbian citizens in the EU – these are the questions answered in a new brief alert. The prEUgovor coalition emphasizes that both the problem and the solution should be seen within the broader system of migration management in Serbia.
After the European Commission published its latest Serbia Report, the Serbian visa policy issue came up high on EU and Serbian officials’ as well as local public’s list of priorities. Serbia was requested to align its visa policy as soon as possible and to cancel the visa-free regime especially for the nationals of Burundi, Tunisia, Cuba and India.
The key reasons provided for such a decision are Frontex statistics indicating that the Western Balkan Route has remained the most active migration route for illegal border crossings into EU in 2022. Additional arguments provided are the statistics indicating an increase in the number of asylum applications lodged by nationals of these countries in EU Member States.
The local population regards the visa policy issue through the risk of implementing the proposed measure of last resort involving the suspension of the visa-free travel to the EU for Serbian citizens. Serbian officials have extended assurances that they will take the necessary steps and that “by the end of the year, Serbia will align its policy with the EU’s visa policy, so that nobody could use it to illegally reach the west through it.”
For now, the Government of the Republic of Serbia has made a Decision abolishing visas for entry to the Republic of Serbia for the nationals of the Republic of Burundi who are holders of diplomatic and official passports. Such a decision has not yet been made for the nationals of Tunisia, although the officials in Brussels as far back as in October welcomed Serbia’s important step towards aligning with the EU visa policy envisaging visa abolishment for nationals of Burundi and Tunisia.
Alignment with the EU’s visa policy is certainly one of the conditions in the EU accession process, which can be observed and regarded completely independently from the increased illegal movements towards the EU. On the other hand, visa policy and control of foreigners’ stay and movement are a part of a wider migration management system.
In this regard, it seems important to clarify some of the circumstances related to a wider migration management context and effects that the imposition of visas on some of the above countries may have on illegal movements on the Western Balkan Route, and on the preservation of the visa-free regime for the Serbian nationals travelling to the EU.