I wrote this article for Gazeta Express in October of last year, this piece really means a lot to me and my friends in the fight for visa liberalization in Kosovo.
I remember a certain memory I had where one of my friends was talking to a woman from Kosovo at the bar, and she asked him if he had an American passport, in which he replied that he did.
“In that case, can I marry you,?” the woman responded.
I couldn’t figure out whether or not she was serious, due to the fact that owning a Kosovo passport contains so many travel restrictions to the point where they would be better off by marrying someone for their passport.
“Had to wait in line to renew a passport allowing me to visit members of my own species across artificially conceived borders,” tweeted renowned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Couldn’t have said it any better.
If you happen to find yourself walking by the Schengen Visa office near the centre of Pristina, you will find people waiting in line for their visa appointment each and everyday, yearning for a piece of paper that will allow them to visit their loved ones, find new opportunities, and travel to other countries.
Those who only own a Kosovo passport are allowed to only visit four countries without a visa, including Albania, Montenegro, Turkey and Serbia. For every other country in the world, they must have a visa in order to visit.
“It costs more to apply for a visa rather than the trip itself,” said Fisnik Latifi, a 23 year old resident of Pristina.
Politicians in Kosovo have promised in the past multiple times that they are working towards visa liberalisation, especially with the EU, allowing them to freely visit member countries of the EU.
However, ask any Kosovar here if they think the politicians are doing enough to fulfill this promise, and they will reply with a firm no.
“Just do what you are hired to do, and stop giving false hope to the people,” revealed Latifi.
Elion Misini, 21, is a photographer who is currently studying at the American University in Kosovo (AUK), believes that the process should be facilitated for the youth.
“ At least make the process easier, especially for the students for study excursions and being able to study abroad,” said Misini.
This issue has made it extremely difficult for students in Kosovo to fulfill their academic goals, such as being able to seek out higher quality education in other countries.
“My masters studies were jeopardized because of the visa issue,” said Fisnik Aliu, 25. “Earlier, I couldn’t take part on an important exhibition in Germany for business purposes. Also, I cannot travel for entertaining purposes either.”
Taulant Devolli, 26, works with the IPKO Foundation located in Pristina and believes that there is a lack of concern from the politicians in terms of visa liberalisation.
“Take it seriously. They do not care about our visas because they have diplomatic ones.,” said Devolli. “We should have a system of support from the government validating our visa requests as well.”
“I haven’t been able to see my friends who live abroad, and have been prevented from participating in several conferences and trainings in countries that require visas,” added Devolli.
If you stop by the German or Swiss embassy, you will also find lines of people outside waiting to apply for their visa to visit their loved ones in these countries.
This is due to an abundant number of Kosovars immigrating to Germany or Switzerland, leaving their families behind, meaning their families are forced to wait for the day a piece of paper will be handed to them to permit them to finally see their loved ones after years and years of waiting.
“I would like to go to Germany or Switzerland,” said Devolli. “My cousins live there and I don’t see them very often.”
During a reception held by the German Embassy, the German Ambassador to Kosovo, Christian Heldt contributed his views on the matter of visa liberalisation.
“I hope Kosovo politicians will fulfill their obligations deriving from visa liberalisation roadmap, enabling young Kosovars travel freely into the EU,” commented Heldt.
One of the key elements of the criteria for achieving visa liberalisation is creating a dialogue with Serbia. This dialogue will serve as a catalyst to becoming recognized by the United Nations and Serbia, which will allow Kosovo to be able to join the EU and the UN, meaning visa liberalisation.
In addition, the EU is monitoring the situation with Montenegro concerning border demarcation, requiring that a solution must be found in drawing the border between Montenegro and Kosovo in order to reach the EU criteria for integration.
“We must accept demarcation with Montenegro if we want to reach visa liberalisation,” said Leart Kelmendi, 25, who is a video editor currently working in Pristina.
However, many members of parliament are protesting this agreement due to the claim that Kosovo will lose 8,000 hectares of land if the agreement is signed, making it difficult for a solution to be reached in the near future.
These issues mentioned above must be solved if Kosovo ever wants to achieve visa liberalisation. It is achievable, but it is a long road ahead.
When asked what he would do first if visa liberalisation was attained, Kelmendi responded that he would like to meet his fiance in Switzerland.
Many other young Kosovars have dreams of visiting new places around the world.
When asked where they would like to go first once visa liberalisation is achieved, AUK student Gelonida Bajraktari, 19, responded “London, to try finding a scholarship for master studies.”
Others shared their travel aspirations as well.
“Italy, because you have so many places and architecture to see,” said Vanesa Shalaj, 22, CEO of retail company VDecor.
“Norway and Finland, because of my masters degree and to visit those places,” said Misini.
Another huge obstacle in the visa liberalisation roadmap is the ongoing corruption of the government in Kosovo, which is draining the country of its efficiency and development.
“There is a lot to discuss, but first of all I recommend that all politicians stop with corruption which makes our country poor in every aspect,” said Dzenita Shabani, 21, a student at the International Business College in Mitrovica. “And normally EU knows the reasons and the crimes that politicians have committed, and that’s why we are so hidden.”
“Since corruption is the main obstacle, just fire the irresponsible ones,” said Bajraktari.
This is a call from the Newborn generation to the politicians of Kosovo to bring an end to the games they have been playing, and focus on what matters. It’s time to provide the future of your country with the possibility of seeking out more opportunities abroad, and bring an end to the feelings of isolation, as if they are living inside a bubble.
Let the Newborns achieve their full potential, but they cannot fulfill this if they continue to feel imprisoned within the borders of their own country.
To the politicians of Kosovo, you were elected for a reason. People placed their trust in you, and it is your turn to carry out the promises you have made to your people, because every Kosovar deserves the freedom to seek out a better life, regardless of whether it may be in Kosovo or in another country.
“Enough talking, start doing,” said 21 year old Agon Dresha, resident of Peja.
Link to original article: http://www.gazetaexpress.com/en/news/no-more-visas-a-newborn-plea-173101/