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EU, three western Balkan states to sign deal on easier travel

The European Union and three western Balkan states on Friday signed an agreement allowing easier travel to the 27-nation bloc for nationals from the Balkans.

The pact, to be signed in Zagreb, provides for easier access to visas for nationals from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. In return, the three western Balkan nations will agree to take back any of their nationals found to be illegally in the EU. EU officials said Macedonia had also concluded negotiations on such agreements and Serbia was in the final stages of discussions. Under the deal, nationals from the three western Balkan states will have to pay only €35 for a visa allowing entry into the EU instead of €60. Officials said visa procedures had been simplified for businessmen, students and journalists. For certain categories of frequent travelers the issuing of multi-entry visas with long periods of validity is provided. Finally, the holders of diplomatic passports are exempt from the visa obligation.

EU citizens do not need visas to go to Western Balkan countries. The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - said the bloc's goal was to allow for visa-free travel for nationals from the western Balkans. But this required progress by these states in strengthening the rule of law, fighting organized crime and corruption. It was also conditional on upgraded administrative capacity in border control as well as improved security of documents through the introduction of biometrics data. (