The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU), is targeting some Balkan countries, such as Albania and Serbia, which are outside Schengen but for which the EU does not require visas.
Serbia in particular is seen as an important stepping stone for illegal migration centred in Turkey, and the draft law to make visa free travel to Europe more difficult was prepared by commissioners Margaritis Schinas and Ylva Johansson. The new regulation, which has been submitted to the European Parliament and the European Commission, allows EU countries to quickly suspend visa-free travel to third countries for up to 36 months if they deem it necessary.
Currently, this period is limited to 27 months and would take longer to implement. The new legislation targets the Balkan countries neighbouring the EU, such as Albania and Serbia. The first time the amendment was put on the agenda was in 2019, when the Netherlands applied for a visa waiver, citing migration from Albania. At the time, however, the Dutch authorities could not do much because existing laws made it difficult to temporarily suspend the visa exemption.
According to the commission, which cited illegal migration to Europe via Serbia as the basis for the legislation, citizens of some countries where the EU requires a Schengen visa can go to another country where the EU does not require a visa and then illegally cross into Europe. According to a study by the Dutch Ministry of Justice, Serbia, which does not apply visas to many third countries, is an important stepping stone to Europe. From Serbia, illegal migrants can illegally cross the EU borders into Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.
The European Commission points out that Serbia's visa free travel for non-EU citizens has recently led to a large number of people from Bangladesh and India travelling to Germany and Austria. If the new law is implemented, EU member states will be able to immediately suspend visa-free travel to other countries if they perceive a security risk.
If the suspended country refuses to take steps to address the EU's complaints, visa-free travel could be terminated altogether. The European Commission also wants to control the issuance of passports by countries with visa free travel agreements with Europe to citizens of other countries.
The European Union grants visa free travel for up to 90 days to about 60 countries, including the Balkan states.