EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about visa-free travel for Albanians and Bosnians was published by EurActiv on 8th October 2010.

The European Parliament yesterday (7 October) backed visa-free travel to Europe’s Schengen area for Albanian and Bosnian citizens, setting the EU assembly on a collision course with France, which opposes the proposal following its controversial crackdown on illegal Roma camps.

The draft bill, which was endorsed by an overwhelming majority in Parliament yesterday (7 October), faces stiff opposition from France when it is submitted for approval by the 27 EU member states in the EU Council of Ministers.

“I now hope that we will have an agreement with ministers at first reading,” said the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the resolution, Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon (Socialists & Democrats).

“This would allow citizens of the two countries to travel freely to spend Christmas with relatives elsewhere in Europe,” she said.

France is opposed to lifting visa requirements for Bosnian and Albanian citizens. Paris is still suffering from the political repercussions of its controversial expulsion of illegal Roma migrants, some of whom were EU nationals of Romanian and Bulgarian origin.

French officials criticised the European Commission for pursuing visa liberalisation talks with Western Balkan countries for “political reasons” and neglecting the “risks” associated with opening up the EU’s borders.

However, Paris does not have the power to block a decision by the EU Council of Ministers, which represents all 27 EU member states. Indeed, since the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, justice and home affairs are considered a Community matter.

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