On Monday, the long-awaited visa liberalization scheme of the European Union went into effect, allowing Kosovo nationals to travel visa-free to Europe’s Schengen zone. The first travelers to take advantage of this development expressed their immense relief.
Sunday at 2300 GMT, the new regime went into effect, allowing Kosovars to enter the passport-free Schengen zone for up to 90 days in any 180 days without a visa.
Pristina views the reform as an additional stride toward complete recognition and a lift to the country’s aspiration to become a member of the European Union, which it declared independence from in 2008.
"This is an immense aid […] “feels wonderful,” businessman Rushit Sopi told AFP before boarding a flight from Pristina to Vienna.
Twenty individuals, including him, emerged victorious in a government-sponsored public awareness campaign exam concerning the scheme.
A near-regular business traveler to the European Union, the proprietor of a doors and windows manufacturing company, who is 48 years old.
“Every visa I obtained cost me three hundred euros ($331).” It cost me 2,500 euros to obtain EU visas when I last updated my passport, according to my calculations.
European embassies in Pristina, particularly those under intense visa issuance pressure, such as the German consulate, had made preparations for a D-Day without visas.
A few days ago, German ambassador Jorn Rohde personally issued the final visas to Kosovars, emphasizing that the visa era was “finally coming to an end.”
He also extended an invitation to citizens of his nation to attend the Euro football championship this summer.
“Joint-class citizens” —
Local surveys revealed that Kosovars eagerly anticipated January 1, viewing it as a “historic day” as their nation approaches the European Union.
In addition, they held Brussels and Pristina accountable for the protracted delay in the removal of the visa regime.
Kosovo, which had a population of 1.8 million, was the final beneficiary of the waiver among the six countries comprising the Western Balkans.
“Europe has regarded us as second-class citizens up until this point,” said 61-year-old engineer Agim Gosalci.
“Our legislators are also to blame for the lengthy delay, as combating organized crime and corruption was one of the prerequisites for visa liberalization,” said 33-year-old translator Adelina Kasolli.
Kosovo, which has a youth unemployment rate exceeding 20 percent and an average compensation of just over 400 euros, is one of the most impoverished nations in Europe.
Emigration concerns –
The Pristina government has conducted a campaign for the past two months, imploring citizens not to abuse their freedom of movement by seeking employment in the European Union.
Primus Minister Albin Kurti personally spearheaded the campaign by touring the nation to expound upon the advantages of the new regime.
"Today is a significant day. “A significant privilege is being acquired and a substantial injustice is being rectified,” he declared to the quiz winners at the Pristina airport before their flight to Vienna.
The prime minister urged the people of Kosovo to “respect the criteria, and wherever we go, never forget that Kosovo is our home.”
Besnik Bislimi, his delegate in charge of European integration, cautioned against the regime’s potential abuse, which could result in “harmful” EU restrictive measures for the entire nation.
Additionally, many are concerned that it may exacerbate labor force shortages.
Approximately 18% of private sector personnel will attempt to emigrate this year, according to the Riinvest Institute in Pristina.
Monday found Sopi preoccupied with Vienna, where he was accompanying his wife, who had never visited an EU country before, even though the impact on his business was also possible.
Valdete, his spouse, stated, “The decision to eliminate visas is exceedingly welcome.”
“It was time to pay a visit to our relatives in Switzerland and Germany,” the speaker said.