Kosovo authorities say the system will help identify security threats.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 31/12/12
Visitors to Kosovo from 87 nations will be required to have a visa starting 2013. [AFP]
Kosovo officials say the establishment of a visa regime for citizens of 87 countries will have a positive impact on the nation's security and its path toward EU accession.
The system, which was announced in May, is expected to go into effect in July.
"From the internal security aspect, the application of the visas regime is a preventing measure because through the visa system potential dangerous elements can be identified and stopped," Artan Behrami, the chief spokesperson for the foreign ministry, told SETimes.
Behrami added that the visa system also creates a basis for travellers to be informed of the conditions to be granted entrance visas to Kosovo.
"This regime is expected to have a positive impact in reducing the possibilities that the Republic of Kosovo be used as a transit country for trafficking of human beings and as a transit country for illegal immigration towards the EU countries," Behrami said.
The Kosovo Foreign Ministry noted that the visa regime is a tool to get closer to the EU, especially when it comes to border control, transit of foreigners and identification and neutralisation of the elements that represent a threat for the security of Kosovo and the EU countries.
Burim Ramadani, a member of Kosovo parliament and a security expert, said applying the visa system is one of the important measures to prevent transnational threats.
"Terrorism and organised crime are global threats,” Ramadani told SETimes, adding that Kosovo's government should be transparent on these decisions. Kosovo, as part of a crossroads between the east and the west, as well as Africa and Russia, is always under transnational and global threats. Therefore, it should strongly co-ordinate its anti-terrorism and anti-organised crime policies with the main EU countries and the US."
Ramadan Ilazi, executive director of the Kosovo Institute for Peace, told SETimes the visa regime will help improve security, "although developments of the last decade have shown that limitations in the freedom of movement have not been able to prevent plans for terrorist attacks."
"Security in the region and security in the country should be based in the continuous advancement of the rule of law bodies and the increase of the police co-operation in the region," Ilazi said.
The new regulations will require additional staff at Kosovo's consulates, though the number and cost to fill those positions has not been determined. When the plan was announced, Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi said it was possible Kosovo could, "co-operate with a country in the region and they can do the services on our behalf."
The foreign ministry has not released the list of 87 countries, but Kosovo daily Koha Ditore published a list that included Russia, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya and Syria. The newspaper did not reveal the source of its information.
Behrami said compilation of the list was based on security reasons and not on political relations. No neighbouring countries are on the list, and it also does not include countries that are part of the EU or Schengen area.
Kosovo is the only country in the region that does not enjoy visa liberalisation from the EU.