Visa suspension report: requirements for visa-free continue to be fulfilled but immediate steps are needed on alignment with EU visa policy
The Commission yesterday presented its 5th report on the monitoring of the EU visa-free regime with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, as well as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. All countries concerned continue to meet the visa liberalisation requirements and made progress in addressing last year's recommendations. The report focuses on actions taken to address the recommendations made by the Commission in the Fourth Report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism of last year to ensure continuous fulfilment of the visa liberalisation requirements. The report also highlights areas where further efforts are needed from each country.
All countries assessed continued to take measures to address irregular migration. However, further effort is needed to address ongoing concerns:
- Alignment with the EU's visa policy: This is crucial for the good functioning of the visa-free regime with the EU. The lack of alignment with the EU's visa policy may lead to increasing irregular arrivals and should be addressed as a matter of priority in all Western Balkan partners.
- Frontex status agreements: The Commission received Council authorisation to negotiate new status agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia that would allow the deployment of the Frontex standing corps to these partner countries. Such an agreement has already been negotiated and signed with North Macedonia and is expected to enter force early 2023. Existing status agreements with Albania, Montenegro and Serbia limit deployments to these countries' common border with the European Union.*
- Anti-smuggling operational plans: A regional Anti-Smuggling Operational Partnership was launched at the EU Western Balkans Ministerial on JHA on 3 November. This will strengthen law enforcement and judicial cooperation against smuggling networks and increase the border management capacity of Western Balkans.
All countries assessed continue to take measures to prevent and fight organised crime. However, further efforts are needed to address internal security concerns:
- High-level corruption: efforts to combat corruption are still hampered by the limited capacity and legal status of anti-corruption agencies, as well as the small number of trials and convictions.
- Fight against organised crime: all countries should step up the fight against transnational organised crime networks in collaboration with Europol and by increasing their participation in EMPACT activities.
- Golden passports: countries granting citizenship in exchange for investment should abolish or refrain from implementing such schemes. Golden passports raise inherent security, money-laundering, tax evasion and corruption risks for the EU.
The Commission will continue monitoring the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation requirements through senior officials' meetings as well as through the regular Justice, Freedom and Security subcommittee meetings and bilateral and regional dialogues between the EU and visa-free countries. The monitoring of aspects related to the visa liberalisation benchmarks will also continue being included in the Commission's annual enlargement package and, where relevant, EU accession negotiations. The Commission will continue to report to the European Parliament and the Council at least once a year.
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