Earlier I wrote about political rights, citizen liberties and press freedom in Balkans (“Freedom in Balkans“). To travel from one country to other is a fundamental freedom restricted however more or less depending about which passport the traveler holds. In practice traveling especially nowadays is restricted because lack of money but I limit this article only formal visa restrictions.
Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. They are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations. Visa restrictions also are reflecting the political situation of the time e.g. some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free, but the breakup wars changed situation completely.
The Henley Visa Restrictions Index
Henley & Partners is a firm specialized in international immigration, consular and citizenship law. Henley & Partners has analyzed the visa regulations of all the countries and territories in the world. It has created an index which ranks countries according to the visa-free access its citizens enjoy to other countries. This Index is globally known as “The Henley Visa Restrictions Index”. (Source and more about H&P please visit in their homepage http://www.henleyglobal.com )
Rank. Passport[s] of Country/Countries, Number of Countries Accessible Without Visa / Visa on Arrival (Balkans and Caucasus bold)
01. Denmark, Finland, United States, 130.
02. Germany, Ireland, Sweden, 129.
03. France, Great Britain (UK citizen passport), Italy, Japan, 128.
04. Belgium, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, 127.
05. Netherlands, 126.
06. Austria, Canada, Luxembourg, New Zealand, 125.
07. Portugal, 123.
08. Singapore, 122.
09. Australia, Greece, Iceland, Malaysia, 120.
10. Liechtenstein, 116.
11. Malta, South Korea, 115.
12. Cyprus, 113.
13. Hong Kong, 110.
14. Chile, San Marino, 109.
15. Monaco, 108.
16. Poland, 106.
17. Slovenia, 105.
18. Israel, 104.
19. Argentina, Brunei, Hungary, 101.
20. Andorra, Brazil, Uruguay, 99.
21. Czech Republic, Mexico, 98.
22. Slovakia, 97.
23. Costa Rica, 95.
24. Lithuania, 94.
25. Venezuela, 92.
26. Estonia, Latvia, 91.
27. Vatican City, 87.
28. Croatia, 84.
29. Bolivia, Bulgaria, 83.
30. Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, 82.
31. El Salvador, 81.
32. Honduras, 80.
33. Nicaragua, 75.
34. Romania, 73
35. Bahamas, Barbados, Macau, 71.
36. Trinidad and Tobago, 66.
37. South Africa, 65.
38. St.Vincent and Grenadines, 64.
39. Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, 63.
40. St. Kitts-Nevis, 62.
41. Grenada, 60.
42. Belize, 58.
43. Jamaica, 57.
44. Solomon Islands, 54.
45. Gambia, Guyana, 53.
46. Dominica, Mauritius, Seychelles, Turkey, 52.
47. Lesotho, 51.
48. Tuvalu, 50.
49. Kiribati, Western Samoa, 49.
50. Botswana, Malawi, 48.
51. Fiji, Sierra Leone, Vanuatu, 47.
52. Kenya, Maldives, Swaziland, Tonga, 46.
53. Ghana, Zambia, 45.
54. Nauru, 44.
55. Ecuador, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, 41.
56. Suriname, 40.
57. Kuwait, Mauritania, Uganda, 39.
58. Bahrain, Mali, Tunisia, 38.
59. Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, Qatar, Senegal, 37.
60. Benin, Cape Verde, Marshall Islands, Oman, 36.
61. Burkina Faso, 35.
62. Nigeria, Russia, Togo, United Arab Emirates, 35.
63. Guinea-Bissau, Micronesia, Philippines, 33.
64. Belarus, Colombia, Palau Islands, Serbia-Montenegro, Ukraine, 32.
65. Liberia, Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, 31.
66. Morocco, 30.
67. Indonesia, Moldova, Thailand, 29.
68. Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, 28.
69. Armenia, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Cuba, Tajikistan, 27.
70. Cameroon, 26.
71. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dominican Republic, India, Madagascar, 25.
72. Egypt, Gabon, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, 24.
73. Algeria, Rwanda, 23.
74. Haiti, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, Sri Lanka, 22.
75. East Timor, Jordan, 21.
76. Comores Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Nepal, 20.
77. Angola, Bhutan, Djibouti, Libya, Turkmenistan, 19.
78. Burundi, China, Ethiopia, North Korea, Vietnam, Yemen, 18.
79. Albania, Cambodia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, 17.
80. Congo, Syria, 16.
81. Iraq, Myanmar, Somalia, 15.
82. Iran, 14.
83. Afghanistan, 12.
Schengen and West Balkans
Visa-free travel to EU has been in the top of wish-lists for citizens of the Western Balkans. Schengen area covers the most of EU. The visa facilitation agreements between EU and countries in West Balkans ease visa application procedures, but they do not abolish the requirement of a visa.
The core law of visa restrictions in EU is Council Regulation 539/2001. This law lists all the countries whose nationals require a visa to enter the Schengen area (“black list”) as well as the countries whose nationals are exempt from this provision (“white list”). The Council will vote by majority, which means that opposing member states could be outvoted.
The European Commission has made visa roadmaps listing around 50 individual activities in each country in terms of existing legislation and practice. The conditions range from purely technical matters, such as the issuance of machine-readable passports with a gradual introduction of bio-metric data, to the adoption and implementation of a raft of laws and international conventions, to very broad matters such as progress in the fight against organized crime, corruption and illegal migration. Once a country meets the conditions, the Commission will make an official proposal to the Council to lift the visa restrictions for this country by amending Council Regulation 539/2001.
An assessment about progress with visa roadmaps has recently been made and a second round of assessment is tentatively scheduled for spring 2009 so there is hope that after one year citizens in Western Balkans have a bit more freedom to travel abroad.