In April 2023, the European Parliament approved visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens, after many years of negotiations. This was a long-awaited and appraised step forwards, both for Kosovo politically, but for Kosovar citizens. Until April 2023, Kosovo was the only country situated in Europe facing visa limitations in regard to the Schengen zone. The decision predicts that Kosovo citizens can enter the EU without visas from 1 January 2024.

Ever since gaining independence, Kosovo has been facing many challenges related to state recognition in international arena, statehood, EU integration and many other. This translates also to the biggest advantage that the other Western Balkan countries have been enjoying for a decade, and that is freedom of movement. Kosovo is facing multiple challenges regarding travelling within the Balkans but also to the Schengen zone. Reasoning for these limitations is usually of political nature; however, they usually mostly affect the ordinary people.

Despite not being impossible to travel to the EU, it required lengthy and costly procedures, followed with a lot of patience and uncertainty. In one hand, travel was not available for everyone due to economic reasons, as the procedures require obtaining documents, translations, flight tickets, accommodation, travel, but also proof of having a certain deposit at your bank account. In the other hand, even if these conditions were fulfilled, the unpredictability of the outcome is also something to consider. This altogether discouraged people from travelling to the EU and to rather choose a visa-free country to visit.

Based on many criteria, youth is considered to be the most vulnerable group among citizens, as the majority of youth have never traveled to the EU. The privilege of organizing an impromptu meeting with a friend in a European city or just taking a train to a nearby city, or not being able to grab a super cheap flight over the weekend is something our Kosovo fellows have never experienced. Being stripped of the opportunity to travel and explore new places and cultures, or to attend trainings and other professional development programs significantly shapes a nation. We must bear in mind that citizens of Kosovo were never allowed to travel freely, and nowadays we have generations of people who have never travelled to the EU, which is rarely the case with the other Western Balkan countries. The core of the issue is not lack of flight connections, infrastructure, finances, but a matter of passport privilege.

Furthermore, being exposed to different cultures and meet youngsters from all across Europe heavily shapes a person, with widening their horizons, providing different perspectives but also fostering the feeling of being European. In a digitalized society, where all information is available in a matter of seconds, the right to free mobility becomes a matter of being trendy but also being able to be proper representatives of their country. Kosovo youth will now have the opportunity to be the real promoters and storytellers of Kosovo, which will impact the positive image of Kosovo throughout EU and allow Kosovars to be the narrators of their story among ordinary people and youth. With this step, it can be expected that a stronger relationship between Kosovo and EU will be built, which can assist the EU integration in a long-term.

Overall, visa liberalization has the potential to unlock new opportunities and experiences for young Kosovars, which may have a lasting positive impact on their lives. djgkdg


Picture: Image by Allexxandar on Freepik