The EU Visa liberalization granted to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro as of December 19, 2009, and a year later to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, eliminated the queues of nervous and humiliated citizens in front of embassies and consulates of the Schengen Agreement member states. Brussels announced negotiations with Pristina that should lead to the abolition of visas for Kosovo citizens. Today, however, due to the increased number of the so-called false asylum seekers, the West Balkan countries face the possibility of being removed from the white Schengen list. Sandra Pekic has more.

At the suggestion of the European Commission, EU interior ministers recently adopted a mechanism whereby visas may be temporarily reinstated for citizens of the third, non-EU countries in case of emergency situations. To come into come, this decision needs to be confirmed by the EU Council and the European Parliament. EU officials say that at present there is no proposal to reinstate visas for Serbia or any Balkan country and that the purpose of this measure is to prevent misuse of visa liberalization.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said that the problem of a wave of false asylum seekers was successfully resolved, and that they are returning to the country under the Agreement on Readmission. However, he announced that police will increasingly control the border crossings to reduce the number of false asylum seekers from Serbia to the EU countries. “At the moment there is no fear that a decision on the suspension of visa liberalization for Serbia would be made soon,” said Dacic.

Asylum seekers are mostly Albanians from southern Serbia and the Roma from Vojvodina, and talks on the issue of asylum seekers have been already initiated with representatives of these national communities. Although asylum is not granted for economic reasons, each application must be reviewed. Interestingly, Germany, until recently, provided accommodation and support to all who sought asylum for the duration of the application processing, which is, three to six months. The country paid out some financial assistance to individuals and families who volunteered to return to their home countries. It is this amount of several hundreds of euros that was considered to be the main reason for the increase in the number of newly-arrived “asylum seekers”. Similar rules were valid in Sweden and Belgium, countries that are most commonly targeted by false asylum seekers.

Judging by all, a wave of false asylum seekers does not endanger the EU visa liberalization, as for the time being, Brussels has confidence in the Serbian government’s efforts to solve this problem as well as in Serbia’s desire to show that it is deservedly making progress in the European integration process.