Kosovars face travel problems in BiH

30/07/2012

Despite the acceptance of Kosovo passports, travelers from Kosovo face hurdles when visiting BiH.

By Muhamet Brajshori and Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Sarajevo -- 30/07/12

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Crossing in to BiH is difficult for Kosovo passport holders. [SETimes file]

Kosovo passport holders travelling to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), which does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, are being subjected to long procedures and high fees.

In order to obtain a visa, Kosovo citizens need an invitation letter, a business letter and diplomatic notes. The invitation letter must be notarized and sent to the embassy of the country of the applicant in Sarajevo. The process takes time and money.

Sarajevo native Selma Ymeri, who has lived in Kosovo since 1979, said she rarely travels to Bosnia because of the problems she faces getting a Bosnian visa.

“The visa cost is high, and we need to go to Macedonia or Montenegro to apply and collect the passport. I would not have believed that it could be so difficult for me to visit my homeland, but politics has its fingers in this,” Ymeri told SETimes.

Zoran Perkovic, the BiH assistant foreign affairs minister, said that all citizens living in Kosovo are treated equally, regardless of whether they Bosnians or Serbs or Albanians when it comes to getting a visa for BiH. But Bosnian natives in Kosovo have an easier process.

"We introduced some exemptions when it comes to travel of [BiH] citizens living in Kosovo. They are now able to travel to BiH with passports printed by the Kosovo authorities, with the necessary visa. They can stay in Bosnia to 90 days, and visa costs around 40 euros. Visas can be picked up at the diplomatic missions of BiH in Zagreb and Skopje, Podgorica," Perkovic told SETimes.

According to officials, obtaining a visa should take about seven days. However, this has often not the case. The BiH Council of Ministers makes the decision to grant a visa or to reject the request -- so the decision on each application is pending until the council meets.

Petrit Selimi, Kosovo deputy minister of foreign affairs, told SETimes that BiH has a hard-line approach towards Kosovo when it comes to free movement of people and goods.

“Bosnians wouldn’t even recognise our passports. This year, we have seen a greater relaxation of the situation with visas granted to our passports, stamps recognised and much greater degree of travel to and from Sarajevo and Banja Luka," Selimi said. “I am optimistic that we will be able to have normal relations."

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Duljko Hasic, a member of the Foreign Trade Chamber of BiH, said that the authorities made a good decision when they allowed Kosovo citizens to travel in BiH on the country's passports, but, he said more needs to be done as far as movement of people and goods to boost business relations.

"The value of exports from BiH to Kosovo in 2011 totalled over 100m euros, while imports from Kosovo barely exceeded 500,000 euros. These two countries have yet to improve their economic relations, [but that requires the removal of] administrative barriers," Hasic told SETimes.

Ymeri says that she hopes the visa requirement will be lifted, at least for BiH diaspora living in Kosovo.

“Sarajevo should pay more attention to us [Bosnians] who live in Kosovo. The lifting of the visa requirement would be a good step in that direction and maybe opening a representative office in Kosovo -- like China and Russia who also don’t recognise Kosovo, but have kind of relations, and so they would support us and understand our problems and challenges," Ymeri said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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