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EU launches visa talks with Bosnia

The European Commission on Monday formally opened a dialogue on visa liberalization with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot said the opening of talks represented a “concrete example of the political commitment given by the EU to the region.” Like the other countries of the Western Balkans, BIH must fulfill technical conditions before a visa-liberalisation agreement can be signed. These include improving border management and issuing biometric passports. “I am convinced that Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to make rapid progress to fulfill the necessary criteria,” Barrot said.

After it finished a process of visa “facilitation” with the countries of Western Balkans, making it easier for certain groups of citizens to acquire visas, the Commission decided to launch a technical dialogue on visa liberalization with all countries in the region. The aim is to reach agreement on a visa-free regime by January 1, 2009.

Bosnian Prime Minister Nikola Spiric took part in the opening of the technical dialogue and stressed that the decision of the EU will “reinforce the European idea” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the next few weeks the Bosnian authorities will receive a roadmap laying out the conditions that have to be met before a visa agreement with the EU can be signed. “We are committed to fulfilling all the conditions from the roadmap,” Spiric said. “Our aim is a visa-free regime for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed the Commission’s decision to launch a dialogue on visa-free travel, noting that it was particularly important for young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Compared to where we were half a year ago, the year 2008 has started well for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its European orientation,” Rehn said. (Birn)