Request to the EU Member States and WB leaders:
Enable the freedom of movement for all the Western Balkan citizens

5 July 2021 

We, the undersigned organisations and individuals from the Western Balkans and European Union are urging the WB6 governments and the European Union Member State leaders to act swiftly in abolishing the visa regimes and establishing the freedom of movement for all Western Balkan citizens travelling within the region and throughout the Schengen area.

The existing barriers to freedom of movement within the region and throughout the Schengen area have been breaking family ties, harming businesses, inhibiting student and academic exchange, and preventing regional cooperation and development.

The movement of WB6 citizens inside the region continues to be challenging due to passport restrictions, as in the case of travelling between Kosovo and Serbia, as well as between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Governments need to understand that roads, tunnels and railways will not serve WB6 countries fully unless provisions are facilitating the free movement of people, goods and services inside the region.

Similarly, opportunities for WB6 citizens are much more limited when it comes to contributing to and benefiting from regional projects but also to larger EU programs which have proven to be beneficial for students, researchers and young entrepreneurs - such as the Erasmus+ Program - offering life-changing experiences to EU citizens. When such opportunities are present, they tend to be available only to people in the Western Balkan region whose passport allows them to travel more easily, without going through the lengthy and costly procedures of acquiring a Schengen visa.

Passport restrictions and visa regimes within the region are significant obstacles that have to be resolved urgently. The upcoming Western Balkan Summit in Berlin is a major opportunity for abolishing the visa regime and enabling the freedom of movement in the region.

Exploring the potential of human capital within the Berlin Process has been vital, which enabled the involvement of youth and civil society as promoters of social change and seen as an investment in people’s mobility. EU support has often been missing this social aspect, which can have a meaningful and sustainable impact on citizens and societies.

Visa liberalisation benefiting the five Western Balkan countries since 2009 was the biggest incentive to the economic development of the region. After the introduction of the visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, the trade of the region with the EU increased almost two and a half times.

However, citizens of Kosovo remain the only ones in the region that need a visa to travel to the Schengen area. Despite the fact that in 2018, the European Commission confirmed that Kosovo had fulfilled all the benchmarks of the visa liberalisation roadmap, and the European Parliament has voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal, the latter is still pending in the European Council.

The EU should take a responsible role and preserve its credibility in the region by delivering on its promises given to Kosovo citizens and grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo this year. By granting visa liberalisation to all citizens of the Western Balkan region, the EU would be fulfilling on its promise, and delivering on its core value - the freedom of movement.

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Signatories alphabetically:

1. Afrim Maliqi, Director of HANDIKOS - Association of paraplegics and paralysed children of Kosovo
2. Agim Qehaja, Human Care, Kosovo
3. Albana Hoti, TROJA - Together Realizing Our Ambitions, Kosovo
4. Albana Veseli, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Kosovo
5. Albulena Nrecaj, Executive Director of the Initiative for Progress (INPO), Kosovo
6. Anida Šabanović, Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, Bosnia and Herzegovina
7. Anto Janković, President of the Center for Economic Prosperity and Freedom – CEPS, Montenegro
8. Antonio Mihajlov, Senior Adviser at the Subversive Front, North Macedonia
9. Arben Hajrullahu, Executive Director of the Center for Political Courage, Kosovo
10. Arianit Jashari, Access, Kosovo
11. Arjeta Maka, Activist at the NGO "Divine Woman" NGO, Kosovo
12. Astrit Istrefi, Executive Director, The Balkan Forum
13. Aulonë Memeti, Executive Director of Admovere, Kosovo
14. Avdyl Gashi, Director of the Global Shapers Community Prishtina, Kosovo
15. Avni Dervishi, Head of Global Sector for Diaspora Power, Sweden
16. Azra Berbić, Program Coordinator at the Post-Conflict Research Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina
17. Bajram Ilazi, Executive Director of the Bashkimi Rinor E Ardhmja E Ndritur, Kosovo
18. Bashkim Ibishi, Director of the Advancing Together, Kosovo
19. Besjana Krasniqi, Omnes, Kosovo
20. Besmir Kokollari, Qualitative Institute for Researches, Analysis and Trainings "iCHAT", Kosovo
21. Branko Ćulibrk, Executive Director of the Centar za mlade "KVART", Bosnia and Herzegovina
22. Burim Ejupi, Executive Director of the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP), Kosovo
23. Cristoph Luettmann, Managing Director of the CSSP Berlin Center for Integrative Mediation, Germany
24. Damir Radeković, President of the Youth Center Vermont, Bosnia and Herzegovina
25. Diellorita Abazi, Executive Director of the Advocacy for Society Development-(AFSD), Kosovo
26. Dina Bajramspahić, Civil Society Activist, Montenegro
27. Dragana Dardić, Executive Director of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
28. Drita Shabani, MSc. in professional studies for public administration, Engineer of Architecture, Kosovo
29. Egzona Bokshi, Civil Society Activist, Kosovo
30. Emina Bošnjak, Executive Director of the Sarajevo Open Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina
31. Emina Kuhinja, Researcher at the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, Bosnia and Herzegovina
32. Emrah Cermjani, Executive Director of the Roma in Action NGO, Kosovo
33. Erblin Hoxha, Executive Director of the Debate Center, Kosovo
34. Erhard Busek, Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Austria
35. Fikrije Ferizi, Executive Director of the OJQ Qendra e Gruas “ATO”, Kosovo
36. Florian Bieber, Professor for Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz, Austria
37. Françeska Muço, Executive Director of the Young Professionals Network, Albanian Youth Representative in the Governing Board of RYCO, Albania
38. Frank Morawietz, Managing Director of the Crossborder Factory, Germany
39. Gani Rashiti, Executive Director of the Center for Advocacy and Democracy Development (CADD), Serbia
40. Genc Broqi, Programs Manager at the Roma Versitas, Kosovo
41. Goran Svilanović, Diplomat, Serbia
42. Hannes Swoboda, President of the International Institute for Peace, Austria
43. Igballe Hajdari, Executive Director of the "Divine Woman" NGO, Kosovo
44. Jadranka Milicevic, Executive Director of the CURE Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina
45. Jonida Mersinllari, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Albania
46. Klaudjo Kavaja, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Albania
47. Leila Bičakčić, Executive Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Bosnia and Herzegovina
48. Lejla Kusturica, Executive Director of the Atelier for Community Transformation – ACT, Bosnia and Herzegovina
49. Marigona Shabiu, Executive Director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Kosovo
50. Mario Mažić, Founding Partner of the Europe&Southeast Consultancy, Croatia
51. Mary Drosopulos, Post-doctoral Research Assistant; Founder and President of Eurobalkan Youth Forum, Greece
52. Marjola Memaj, Youth Activist & Trainee at the European Parliament, Albania
53. Mentor Boja, Social Worker at the Union of Kosova, Kosovo
54. Miloš Perović, Executive Director of the ALFA Centar, Montenegro
55. Miralem Tursinović, Director of the Youth Resource Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina
56. Mite Kuzevski, Foundation for debate and education IDEA Southeast Europe, North Macedonia
57. Naim Rashiti, Executive Director of the Balkans Policy Research Group, Kosovo
58. Randall Puljek-Shank, PhD, Bosnian-American Friendship Association, Bosnia and Herzegovina
59. Regjë Mulaj, Executive Director of the OJQ “VISION 02”, Kosovo
60. Remzije Duli, CEO at the Building Blocks For Success, Kosovo
61. Sabahudin Mujkić, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Bosnia and Herzegovina
62. Samir Agić, Executive Director of the Center for Education and Socialising (COD Jajce), Bosnia and Herzegovina
63. Sebastian Schäffer, Managing Director of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Austria
64. Senada Šelo Šabić, Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia
65. Shukrije Gashi, Executive Director of the Partners-Kosova Center for Conflict Management
66. Silvia Nadjivan, Political Scientist and Author, Austria
67. Stephanie Fenkart, Director of the International Institute for Peace, Austria
68. Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Citizens Forum and the former European Parliament‘s Vice-President and Rapporteur for Kosovo, Austria
69. Valon Arifi, Human Rights Activist, Serbia
70. Vebi Mujku, Executive Director of the Instituti për Zhvillimin e Politikave Sociale, Kosovo
71. Vedran Džihić, Senior Researcher at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, Austria
72. Vehbi Goxhuli, Executive Director, OJQ Gjeomjedisi, Kosovo
73. Veton Mujaj, Executive Director of the "Syri i Vizonit" NGO, Kosovo
74. Visar Azemi, Executive Director of the Balkan Green Foundation, Kosovo
75. Visar Haxhifazliu, Executive Director of the THY NGO, Kosovo
76. Visar Hoti, CEO at TV TEMA, Kosovo
77. Visare Berisha Shabani, Executive Director, Assist Kosovo Center – Assist, Kosovo
78. Xhabir Deralla, President of the Center for Freedom - CIVIL, North Macedonia

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