A long-awaited European Union scheme allowing Kosovo nationals to travel to Europe’s borderless zone without a visa came into force on Monday.
The new regime enables Kosovars to travel to the passport-free Schengen zone without a visa for periods of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
Kosovo, with a population of 1.8 million, was the last of the six countries in the Western Balkans to get the waiver.
The reform is perceived by the government of Kosovo as another step towards full recognition and a boost for the ambition of the country that proclaimed independence in 2008 to join the EU.
According to the European Commission, Kosovo by 2018 met all the needed criteria for the visa-free regime, including border and migration management.
However the approval has been held up by France and the Netherlands, who were concerned about the possibility of new migration waves as well as by five other EU members – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
The five do not recognise Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, neither does the latter.
Before the EU lifted the visa regime with Kosovo, its passport holders could only travel to 14 countries all over the world without a visa.
During the past few months, the government has been conducting a public awareness campaign urging people not to misuse the freedom of travel by looking for jobs in the EU.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who led the campaign himself, is to address the first Kosovo residents who will travel from Pristina airport to the EU without a visa later on Monday.