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EU agrees to grant Kosovo visitors visa-free travel

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European Union member states and the EU parliament agreed Wednesday on a plan to allow visitors from Kosovo to enter the bloc without visas.

Statements from parliament and the European Council said new rules allowing two 90 day visits a year would go into effect before January 1, 2024.

The long sought-after deal came on the same day as leaders from Kosovo — which is recognised as a state by all but five EU members — applied to join the bloc.

Kosovo is the last of the six countries in the Western Balkans to not have an EU visa waiver, and the only one whose membership bid has yet to be accepted.

“This is a very important moment for its European future,” said Dutch MEP Thijs Reuten, who led the parliament’s team in the rules negotiations.

“Finally, Kosovars will be able to travel to the EU for holidays, family visits and business trips without having to apply for a visa.”

The European Council, which represents member states, said more steps remain but the rule would come into force with the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

“And in any case no later than 1 January 2024,” the statement added.

In Pristina, President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and parliamentary speaker Glauk Konjufca jointly signed an application for EU membership.

This will be submitted to the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, but is seen as only the start of a potentially very long process.

Five members of the bloc — Greece, Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus — do not recognise Kosovo as an independent country.

Pristina declared independence in 2008, however Serbia — along with its key allies Russia and China — still consider it a part of Serbia.

Normalising ties with Belgrade will be imperative for Kosovo’s bid.

Despite the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, the two neighbours have been at loggerheads for decades.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.




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