On October 17, during his visit to Tirana, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, declared that the issue of visa liberalization for Kosovo had been suspended by France. The statement caused confusion in Kosovo, whose citizens expect to move freely in Europe from January 1, 2024. But the European Council confirmed to Faktoje that the process of visa liberalization for Kosovo is not suspended and no member country has requested such a thing from the union.
In the joint conference with Prime Minister Edi Rama one day after the Berlin Process summit held in Tirana, French President Emmanuel Macron caused confusion in Albania and Kosovo following a statement that ‘the visa liberalization process for Kosovo has been suspended’.
” I say it very clearly. We have entrusted you with the matter of visas. The case has been suspended by France because it has to do with respecting the word given and the word is not being kept .” – Emmanuel Macron, President of France, October 17, 2023, Tirana
Prime Minister Rama’s comment to this statement added even more fuel to the fire, considering the cancellation of the visa liberalization process for Kosovo as a real risk.
” Today, Kosovo has entered a trap that it has made for itself, but it has never been better. It would be dramatic to lose the right finally won to move freely in the European Union, dramatic! It makes me cringe when I think that there may be a delay in the process of visa liberalization. – Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, October 17, 2023
What the European Council and the European Commission said
To understand more about what is happening with the visa liberalization process of Kosovo, a decision approved by the European Parliament and the European Council after the proposal by the European Commission, Faktoje decided to ask the EU institutions.
The European Council confirmed for Faktoje that the visa liberalization process for Kosovo has not been suspended and that there is no request or initiative for something like that.
” The visa liberalization process for Kosovo has not been suspended. The decision of the European Parliament and the Council has been approved and entered into force. None of the member countries in the EU has requested or taken any initiative to cancel the liberalization of visas for Kosovo from January 2024. ” – European Council for Facts.
At the same time, the European Commission responded to the request for information from Faktoje, emphasizing that EU member states do not have such a power.
” Individual Member States cannot decide to suspend a visa-free regime. The rules for granting, suspending, or terminating the exemption from the visa regime are fully harmonized at the EU level and require decisions at the EU level. – Spokesperson of the European Commission for internal affairs, Anitta Hipper for Faktoje.
Disinformation in the media
The statement was widely reported in the local and international media as a suspension of visa liberalization for Kosovo, as a threat or warning from France that the free movement of Kosovo’s citizens from January 1 may be at risk.
The confusion was further fueled by the lack of verification of the statement by the media before reporting it as fait accompli. Some even commented on the alleged suspension as something to be expected.
Another thesis that took place in the media was that the statement and the confusion created by it were attributed to a mistake in the translation of Macron’s statement.
But a verification of the statement in French shows that, in fact, President Macron used the word “suspension” when he spoke about the visa liberalization process for Kosovo.
” Je le dis moi avec beaucoup de clarté nous avons fait un geste de confiance sur la question des visas elle est suspendedue pour ce qui est de la France , au respect de la parole donnée et la parole aujourd’hui n’est pas tenue . ” ” – statement in French by President Emmanuel Macron.
” I say it very clearly, we made a gesture of confidence regarding the issue of visas, it has been suspended as far as France is concerned, out of respect for the word given and the word is not being kept today “. – statement in Albanian by President Emmanuel Macron.
Clarification from Macron’s office
The President spoke about the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. He said what our demands were. In this context and taking into account the blockade of Pristina, the President has estimated that the issue of visa liberalization will remain open. Moreover, it is a technical process and a discussion that needs to be had with our European partners. – Elysee told ABC News.
Faktoje asked French President Macron’s office for further clarification on what he considers to be the “blockade” of Pristina and if France plans to request visas with Kosovo. Faktoje is still waiting for a response from Elysee.
At the same time, the media in Kosovo endeavored to clarify Kosovo’s position regarding visa liberalization after Macron’s statement. Some cited process experts in the European Union institutions to clarify that the suspension is procedurally impossible. Gazeta Express received a comment from the Dutch member of the European Parliament, Thijs Reuten, rapporteur for visa liberalization for Kosovo, who called Macron’s statement hasty.
” The liberalization of visas for Kosovo will be effective from January 1, 2024. This decision was taken unanimously by the Council months ago. France’s attempt to revoke this decision is not the position of the EU and President Macron does not have the power to unilaterally take such steps,” said Reuten.
Even the French ambassador in Kosovo emphasized for RTK that ” There is no technical decision to question the liberalization of visas for Kosovo on January 1 “.
How the statement was used by propaganda in Serbia
While the 8th Summit of the Berlin Process, which focuses precisely on the European integration of the countries of the Western Balkans, was being held in Tirana, Serbian President Alexandar Vucic was on an official visit of several days to China, where he also talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From Beijing, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić thanked Emmanuel Macron for the ‘friendship shown to Serbia’ when he was asked about the latter’s statement on the suspension of free movement with Kosovo.
According to Serbian media, Vucic told reporters that he does not want to comment on the fact that the French President said that his country has canceled the visa liberalization process for Kosovo.
“I don’t want to comment. It is the decision of one of the largest countries in Europe. Thanks to Macron for many other things, for the friendship he shows to Serbia.” – Vucic is quoted as saying.
The European Union currently has a visa-free regime with 61 non-EU countries. 25 countries have visa waiver agreements with the EU and 8 others have received visa exemptions as a result of the successful conclusion of the visa liberalization dialogue (Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine). The remaining 28 countries received the exemption from the visa regime after the first harmonization of EU rules (Council Regulation No. 539/2001).
On April 19, 2023, the European Council and the European Parliament agreed to exclude Kosovo from the visa regime, after the successful completion of the visa liberalization dialogue, which will come into force on January 1, 2024.
The Visa Suspension Mechanism is defined in Article 8 of the EU Visa Regulation. Its main purpose is to enable a temporary suspension of the visa exemption in the event of a sudden and significant increase in irregular migration or security risks.
According to Article 8 of this regulation, an EU member state can notify the [European] Commission if it faces during a two-month period, compared to the same period of the previous year or compared to the last two months before the application of the exemption from the regime of visas of citizens of third countries listed in Annex II, for one of the following circumstances:
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(a) a substantial increase in the number of nationals of that third country refused entry or found to be staying in the Member State’s territory without a right to do so;
(b) a substantial increase in the number of asylum applications from the nationals of that third country for which the recognition rate is low;
(c) a decrease in cooperation on readmission with that third country, substantiated by adequate data, in particular a substantial increase in the refusal rate of readmission applications submitted by the Member State to that third country for its own nationals or, where a readmission agreement concluded between the Union or that Member State and that third country so provides, for third-country nationals having transited through that third country;
(d) an increased risk or imminent threat to the public policy or internal security of Member States, in particular a substantial increase in serious criminal offences, linked to the nationals of that third country, substantiated by objective, concrete and relevant information and data provided by the competent authorities.
Next, the EU regulation for activating the visa reinstatement mechanism requires the member state to state the reasons on which it bases its request, including the relevant data and statistics, as well as a detailed explanation of the precautionary measures that the member state in question has undertaken to correct the created situation.
Not only is Kosovo not part of the countries listed in Annex II, but as understood from the four reasons on which such a request can be based, it will take time and statistical data to support such a request, which cannot happen without the application of visa liberalization and the citizens of Kosovo to travel freely in the Schengen zone.
The statement of the French President Emmanuel Macron about the “suspension” of the visa liberalization process for Kosovo turns out to be untrue, beyond the interpretations and arguments given by the interested parties.
The fact remains that the citizens of Kosovo will travel visa-free in the Schengen area from January 1, 2024, and that so far no request or initiative to the contrary has been filed in the EU institutions.