HOME AFFAIRS COUNCIL : EU MAY REINTRODUCE TEMPORARY VISA REQUIREMENT FOR BALKAN STATES.

 
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The absence of a visa requirement between the EU and Serbia (plus four other Balkan states) will no longer be unconditional. It may be provisionally suspended in cases of an abusive increase in asylum applications from these countries, about which six EU countries (France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Luxembourg) have been complaining for months. The member states, the European Parliament and the Commission worked out an agreement in their three-way talks, on 5 December 2012, on the introduction of a "safeguard clause" in the 2001 visa regulation that establishes the list of countries exempted from the visa requirement for short stays (under 90 days).

This safeguard clause, proposed by the Commission in May 2011, essentially targets Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). But it may be relied on to reintroduce temporary visa obligations for any exempted country in cases of abuse. "The agreement should be officialised by the end of the year and enter into force at the start of 2013," said a diplomatic source.

"Following visa liberalisation for nationals of the Balkan states in November 2009, unfounded asylum applications increased suddenly and exponentially," the Commission noted in June in a report on migration in the EU. In 2011, Serbia was one of the main countries of origin of asylum applicants, after Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan and Iraq, with 13,900 applications. Yet "the vast majority" of these applications "are not founded and are damaging because they overburden the services in charge of examining applications in the states that have complained".

The procedure has to be rapid. A member state can report an urgent situation to the Commission, which will assess it and propose - via the committee of national experts -...

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