[Opinion] : EU Stabilitocracy First: LIBE’s techno-pragmatic decision not a makeshift


By Nicasia Picciano, PhD, @NicasiaPi ,

11 April 2024, – It is probably not by accident that the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) adopted a debatable decision on the same day Kosovo celebrated the 16th anniversary since the adoption of its Constitution. This meaning that equality of all citizens and the guarantee of their rights, with a particular emphasis on minorities, as a principle of a sound democracy should also be made valid for Kosovo too.

On 9th April LIBE has endorsed a decision (34 votes in favour, 7 against, and 12 abstentions) on visa liberalization, up to 90 days, for biometric passports issued by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Coordination Directorate (Koordinaciona uprava) to travel to the EU. The  Directorate was established during the visa liberalisation dialogue with Serbia. Its creation was to replace the 7 regional Police Directorates dispersed over the Serbian territory responsible for issuing passports to Kosovo Serbs until then.

LIBE’s technical decision has been considered as a pragmatic solution to ensure equal treatment among citizens. And a major step towards achieving visa-free regime for the whole Western Balkans when travelling to the EU.

Whatever debatable LIBE’s recent decision might be, this has not come out of the blue. Rather, it is part and parcel of the EU’s stabilitocracy first approach between Kosovo and Serbia.

In 2003, pursuant to the Thessaloniki Agenda, the European Union made a political commitment to liberalize the short-term visa regime for the Western Balkans.

Four years later, on 14 December 2007, the Council welcomed the conclusion of visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the EU and four Western Balkan countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia). In its view visa facilitation should encourage the countries in the region to implement key reforms and strengthen their cooperation with the EU in various areas (i.e., strengthening the rule of law, fighting organized crime and illegal migration, and increasing the security of documents by introducing biometry).

About one month later, on 28 January 2008, the Council welcomed the Commission’s intention to launch a visa dialogue with all the countries of the region. And it expressed its readiness to further discuss this issue, with a view to defining detailed roadmaps setting clear benchmarks to be met by all the countries of the region in order to gradually advance towards visa liberalization.

On 7-8 December 2009, the Council underlined that Kosovo should also benefit from the perspective of eventual visa liberalisation once all conditions are met and invited the Commission to move forward with a structured approach to bringing the people of Kosovo closer to the EU.

In 2008, when the first visa liberalization dialogues were launched, the Commission set out an overall objective to grant the whole Western Balkan region visa-free access to the Schengen area.

Visa requirements for Kosovo were abolished in 2023 only (for Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in 2009, for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010). In this context, removing the exclusion from the visa exemption concerning the holders of Serbian passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate would ensure that the whole Western Balkan region is subject to the same visa regime.

In 2008 when the visa liberalization dialogue was launched, Kosovo-Serbs got their passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate. At that time Kosovo just gained its independence and started to struggle to get its position as an independent entity recognized regionally and globally.

LIBE’s recent decision has not come unexpectedly. On 16 November 2023 the Commission presented a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 as regards holders of Serbian passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate.

This amendment to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 would allow, in the Commission’s view, to exempt holders of Serbian passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate from the requirement to be in possession of a visa when crossing the external borders of the Member States for stays of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

In 2009, Kosovo was included in part 2 of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001, entailing that holders of passports issued by Kosovo were required to be in possession of a visa when crossing the external borders of the Member States.

Three years later, on 19 January 2012 the Commission launched a visa liberalisation dialogue with Kosovo. Its progress to that end would have relied on the Kosovo government’s efforts to implement reforms in the rule of law and on concrete progress made on the ground.

Five months later, on 14 June 2012, the Commission presented to Kosovo a roadmap identifying all the legislation and other measures it needed to adopt and implement to advance towards visa liberalization. This dialogue was successfully concluded, and on 4 May 2016, the Commission presented a proposal (COM/2016/0277 final) to transfer Kosovo to Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 539/2001. This proposal was finally agreed and adopted on 19 April 2023.

Starting from that moment, Kosovo has met the requirements of its roadmap towards a visa-free regime. It has been, therefore, considered appropriate to exempt holders of passports issued by Kosovo from the visa requirement when travelling to the territory of the Member States. The exemption would have ensured that the whole Western Balkan region is subject to the same visa regime. Consequently, Kosovo should have been transferred from Part 2 of Annex I to Part 4 of Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806.  What’s more, the exemption from the visa requirement should have applied only to holders of biometric passports issued by Kosovo in line with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Also, this exemption should have not applied until the date from which the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), established by Regulation (EU) 2018/1240 of the European Parliament and of the Council, would have started to be operative or until 1 January 2024.

Following the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2023/850, holders of Serbian passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate would remain the only citizens in the Western Balkan region required to be in possession of a visa when travelling to the EU for short stays.

Therefore, with the entry into force of the visa exemption for Kosovo passport holders, in its proposal the Commission considered that the reasons behind the exclusion of holders of Serbian passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate from that visa exemption no longer exist, and that all citizens of the Western Balkan region should benefit from visa-free travel to the Schengen area.

Is LIBE’s decision a good or a bad thing for Kosovo? Neither one or the other. The whole post-war reconstruction process of the former province of Serbia has been an internationally-led engineering compromise trying to please both parties somehow. This happens in many post-conflict settings. And Kosovo is not an exception.

Surely, Kosovo is stronger today as an independent state than it was in 2008, when the visa liberalization dialogues have been launched. And nothing speaks against its firm engagement to move forward and be a full member of the EU.


Nicasia Picciano holds a Phd on European Union state-building in Kosovo from the University of Flensburg, Germany. She is the author of the book the European Union State-Building in Kosovo. Challenges and Lessons Learned: An Assessment of EULEX, Dr. Kovač, Hamburg. She has previously worked as a researcher for Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, Prishtina, Group for Legal and Political Studies, Prishtina and Balkans Policy Research Group, Prishtina. Currently, she covers the Western Balkans for Sbunker (Prishtina) and Le Courrier des Balkans (Paris). Her research interests span from peace- and state-building, reconciliation and ethnic conflict, cultural tourism, green energy transition, the Berlin Process and the Connectivity Agenda in Kosovo and the Western Balkans. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 

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