Towards a Visa Liberalization Regime

On 26 April 2007, AGENDA Institute in the framework of the project “What Albania and EU need to do to make a success of visa liberalization?”, with the support of The Balkan Trust for Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States of America, organized the workshop: “TOWARDS A VISA LIBERALIZATION REGIME”

The opening speech was held by Mrs. Milva Ekonomi, the Executive Director of AGENDA Institute. Mrs. Ekonomi briefly presented the project’s idea and objectives as well as some of the main hypotheses of the policy research. Mrs. Ekonomi clarified the participants that this meeting serves to present for the public the findings of the first phase of the policy research carried out by the research team of AGENDA Institute.

Mr. Ferit Hoxha, Chief Negotiator of Albania for the Visa Facilitation Agreement and at the same time the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs focused his presentation on the beneficiaries of this Agreement initialled on 13 of April 2007. Mr. Hoxha illustrated the efforts made by the Albanian government to conclude the Visa Facilitation Agreement in compliance with citizens’ desire for an advanced regime in terms of free movement of persons. For this purpose, Mr. Hoxha considered as indispensable the collaboration with different actors from the civil society.

Mr. Ilir Meta, former Prime Minister and Head of Parliamentary Committee on European Integration exposed the view of the Committee which he heads and expressed his willingness to undertake fundamental reforms with wide political and social basis in order to meet the necessary criteria’s that would list Albania in the Schengen’s white list. Mr. Meta referred to some signed agreements with few of the countries in the region as a positive example for a better understanding and knowing of the citizens. He emphasized that these agreement should serve as a basis for other important agreements.

Mr. Carlo Natale, Head of Political and Economic Section of the European Commission Delegation in Albanian, briefly presented the view and attitude of EU on Albanian’s Visa Facilitation Agreement. Mr. Natale underlined that this agreement needs to be approved in the Council and then to be ratified by the Albanian Parliament and European Parliament. He emphasized that this agreement is a step forward in the process of visa liberalization in line with Thessaloniki Agenda. However, in order to have a visa liberalization regime with EU, Albania should demonstrate its willingness and capacities to properly implement this agreement. Albania is faced with challenges which should be turned into a success history concluded Mr. Natale.

Mr. Ditmir Bushati, the Research Director of AGENDA Institute as well as the research team leader of this project presented the main issues and findings of the policy research offering at the same time recommendations for policy makers. The presentation was focused on:

Schengen Agreement and the Convention for its implementation;

Geography of movement of persons (Albania vs countries in the region and Albania vs. EU)

Facilitation Visa Agreement with Albania and a comparative view with agreements signed or in the process of signing with Macedonia, Russia, Serbia and Bosnia;

EU negative list and the potential opportunities for Albania to be in the white list taking into consideration the experience of Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ecuador;

The high number of Albanian applicants for Schengen visa and its trent.

The high number of refuses by Schengen Embassies and the reasons;

The agreement with Italy as a positive precedent for certain categories;

The fulfilment of some standards in line with EU acquis in the area of: asylum, migration, readmissionagreements, integrated border management, security of documents etc.

The activity was followed with interest by printed and visual media. The participants in the activity were representatives from central institutions, diplomatic corps in Albania, representatives from civil society, business community, and media as well as representatives from student’s networks.

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