Negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina were concluded today in Brussels. The conclusion of the negotiations was followed by the formal initialling of the agreements. The agreements could enter into force 6 or 7 months after initialling. Before the agreements can enter into force they need to be approved by the EU Council and by Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This is a clear signal that the EU is keeping the door open for Bosnia and Herzegovina and that it will keep to its commitments on the European perspective of the country. The visa facilitation agreement has advantages for all Bosnia and Herzegovina travellers in the form of low visa fee rates and speedier application procedures. Document requirements will be simplified for certain groups of travellers, for example students, business people, journalists, participants in scientific and cultural activities and civil society representatives. It will be easier for such groups to get multiple entry visas and for certain categories of persons, such as students and pensioners, visas will be issued free of charge. This will increase exchange with the rest of Europe and thereby help preparations for EU accession. It can be expected to have a positive impact on economic and democratic development and contribute to stabilising the region.
Visa facilitation is a first step towards visa-free travel, to which the people of the Western Balkans attach great importance. Before the visa obligation is lifted, the countries of the region will have to significantly improve, in particular, their capacity to fight organised crime, corruption and illegal migration. They need also to strengthen border control and travel document security. The readmission agreement will contribute to combating illegal migration as it will facilitate the return of illegal residents to their countries of origin or to the countries they have transited through.
Visa facilitation is part of a broader set of measures intended to promote people-to-people contact between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU. They include awarding more scholarships for students and researchers from the region, notably through the Erasmus Mundus programme, further cooperation in the areas of research, education and culture, including through participation into the relevant Community programmes and agencies, and increased support for civil society dialogue.