Albanian media in occupied Kosovo have reported an increase in the number of Albanians applying for Serbian passports that they can use to leave Kosovo to make money in Western Europe.
In other words, 10 years after the country’s self-proclaimed independence, the European Union does not seem to be flexible about easing the visa regime for Kosovo’s inhabitants.
As a local politician in Pristina, Ljubinko Karadzic explained in an interview with Belgrade’s Evening News, citizens of occupied Kosovo continue to renew their Serbian passports, and many young Albanians are receiving Serbian passports for the first time.
Albanians with Serbian passports and registration in Kosovo, unlike residents of other regions of Serbia, cannot enjoy the benefits of the so-called White List of the Schengen Area and travel visa-free to European countries with otherwise open borders.
To do this, they need to obtain registration in Serbia, which some Kosovo Albanians can do relatively easily, especially in the southern parts of the country populated by their Albanian compatriots.
So what drives Kosovo Albanians to apply for Serbian passports anyway? The reason is that the “Republic of Kosovo” does not offer its citizens visa-free travel to Europe. The prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic, Ramush Haradinaj, promised that Kosovo residents would be able to travel to Europe without visas by the end of March 2018, that is, ten years after the declaration of “independence.”
However, instead of liberalizing the visa regime, Pristina received a statement from the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, who called on Kosovo to focus on fighting organized crime.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that Serbian passports are in high demand. In 2010, in the second year after the so-called “Kosovo Republic” declared independence, the publication “Koha Ditore” wrote that Kosovo Albanians were willing to pay €5,000 to receive the desired biometric passport from the “neighboring state”. And in February 2015, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic reported that authorities had processed about 60,000 Serbian passport applications from Kosovo Albanians.
Political scientist Dragomir Andjelkovic believes that this may be another sign of the failure of the independent Kosovo state project. “A country that, with the support of the West, cannot guarantee visa liberalization and offer something for its younger generation is facing the fact that its residents, despite their negative attitude towards Serbia, decide to obtain Serbian citizenship,” he said.
This is not just the quasi-state’s “economic escape” at play, but the adoption of citizenship of a country that many Albanians are taught to see as an “enemy state.”
Three years ago, Serbia tightened its grip on the issuing of passports, fearing that the large-scale issuing of Serbian documents to Albanians might jeopardize their own visa-free regime with the European Union.