BELGRADE (Serbia), November 30 (SeeNews) – The European Union foreign ministers decided on Friday to grant visa-free travel to the citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro as of December 19, the Serbian government said.
Serbian citizens will be able to travel to all EU member states except for Great Britain and Ireland, which are not members of the Schengen Agreement, the Serbian government said on its website.
Twenty-nine countries, including 25 European Union member states and four non-EU members (Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland) are bound to the full set of rules in the Schengen Agreement for visa-free travel.
The three Balkan countries are at various stages on the path to joining the bloc. The largest of them, Serbia, signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in April 2008. Montenegro applied for membership in December last year after signing a SAA in October 2007.
Macedonia was granted an EU candidate status in December 2005 but is still waiting for a date to start membership negotiations. The European Commission last month recommended the opening of the negotiations in the light of the progress achieved by the Balkan country.
Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo remain the only countries in the Western Balkans whose citizens will still need visas to travel in the EU. Albania and Bosnia must catch up with an array of reforms, the European Commission said last month, adding it will report back on their progress early in 2010
Also in October, the Commission proposed to start a process that should lead to visa-free travel for Kosovo citizens but set no time-frame.
Kosovo, where 90% of the population is ethnic Albanian and the rest are Serbs, declared its secession from Serbia in February 2008. Belgrade has said it will never recognise Kosovo as an independent state. Over 60 countries have recognised Kosovo's independence so far.