EU lawmakers lift visa rules for Albania, Bosnia

EU lawmakers lift visa rules for Albania, Bosnia

Brussels: EU lawmakers approved plans to lift visa requirements for visitors from Bosnia and Albania on Thursday, in a step towards closer integration of the western Balkans with the European Union.

Visa liberalisation is part of EU efforts to stabilise the region after years of ethnic conflict and to encourage democratic reforms.

Bosnia and Albania, with populations of about 3.8 million and 3.2 million respectively, hope to join the European Union in the next decade, but are seen as laggards in the region because deep domestic political divisions have delayed reforms in recent years.

Bosnian foreign minister Sven Alkalaj said he hoped visa restrictions would be lifted quickly if EU ministers approve parliament’s decision next month as expected.

“It is our hope that (Bosnian) citizens are granted visa-free travel by the end of the year," he said in a statement.

To qualify, both countries have had to prove they are capable of dealing with issues such as illegal immigration and trafficking along the drugs route from Asia to Europe.