Austrian and Kosovar Leaders Call for Visa Liberalization and Regional Security – Release

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer discussed ways to speed up Kosovo’s EU membership and stressed the need for the EU to lift the visa barrier for the last Western Balkan country .

During his visit to Prishtina on Friday, Chancellor Nehammer was welcomed at a state ceremony by his counterpart Albin Kurti, with whom they held a joint press conference after the meeting. The Chancellor also met President Vjosa Osmani later.

Kurti asked Nehammer to push for Schengen visa liberalization for Kosovo and asked for more EU funds for his country.

“I have asked the Chancellor of Austria to bring forward the visa liberalization decision in the European Council, as it is a late decision that harms the citizens, businesses and economy of Kosovo. Kosovo should benefit more from EU funds. EU funds should be linked to EU values,” Kurti said.

Kosovo has met all EU visa liberalization requirements since 2018, but its population remains the only one in the region unable to move freely. Also, it ranks higher than some countries in the region in the corruption and human rights indexes, but they still receive more EU funds despite declining EU values ​​in their homes.

Kurti hailed the traditionally strong relations between the two countries and reassured Nehammer of Kosovo’s reliable partnership in the future.

“We have hosted Afghan refugees, imposed sanctions on Russia and are open to hosting Ukrainian refugees,” he said. Kurti’s government has offered to take in 20 journalists fleeing Ukraine and 5,000 refugees.

Chancellor Nehammer underlined that the Western Balkans are an important geostrategic area and that Austria will be a bridge between the region and the European Union.

“We also discussed with the Prime Minister the acceleration of the process of accession to the EU […] Kosovo must be part of the EU,” said the Chancellor.

The two leaders also discussed Russian aggression in Ukraine. Nehammer said countries should help each other deal with the consequences of war, including inflation and energy.

Kurti reiterated warnings that Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to destabilize other countries, with the Western Balkans being one of the main possible targets.

“During the [1998-1999] war, Putin only mentioned Kosovo once a month. Now he talks about it almost daily, drawing false parallels with Crimea. The man who opposed NATO’s saving intervention in 1999 wants to abuse the case of Kosovo to impose his hegemony. We are saddened but not scared,” Kurti noted.

He argued that Putin was seeking to negotiate with US President Joe Biden and therefore may step up attacks on Ukraine, although his war there will not be enough to achieve Russia’s goals. Kurti again warned of the danger of conflict in the Western Balkans through Russia’s proxies: “In [Serbia’s] Nis, the Russian humanitarian center is full of Russian agents.

Despite signing a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine under EU pressure, Serbian leaders have refused to express any explicit condemnation in public, and Serbia has decided not to impose sanctions. Belgrade is the only city in the world to hold pro-invasion rallies.

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