On 19 December, the European Commission reported on its assessment of the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation benchmarks by a number of countries, including several in the Eastern Partnership region: Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Other countries covered by the report include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
This annual report shows that the visa liberalisation requirements for the concerned countries continue to be met, but that action – in some cases immediate – is required for a number of countries in specific areas to ensure this continues to be the case.
The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: "Visa free travel with our Western Balkan and eastern European partners is a great achievement which brings benefits for both sides. It also comes with responsibilities and obligations. I welcome that all concerned countries continue to fulfil their obligations, but call for swift and enhanced efforts to continue curbing irregular migration, and fighting corruption and organised crime."
According to the EU, visa-free travel brings important benefits for Europe and its partners, reinforcing social, cultural and economic ties. It also comes with responsibilities to ensure that the progress achieved during the visa liberalisation dialogues is maintained and that the migration and security environment is well managed.
The report follows on from the Commission's recommendations of December 2017 and takes stock of the measures implemented by the concerned countries in the past year.
According to the report, all eight countries have taken measures to address irregular migration, however further efforts are needed to improve and ensure sustainable results:
- Irregular migration from Ukraine, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU remains high, while the increasing number of unfounded asylum applications in the EU from Moldovan and Georgian citizens is a source of concern.
- More work is needed to ensure full alignment with EU visa policy.
- Cooperation on readmission and return continues smoothly for all concerned countries.
Despite measures taken to fight organised crime, further reinforced efforts are needed from all eight countries. Immediate action as regards corruption is required from Moldova and Ukraine, the report said.
The Commission will monitor the continuous fulfilment of the visa liberalisation requirements and will report to the European Parliament and the Council at least once a year.
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