Passport Rank 2014: Balkans

July 11, 2014

 

Free movement is one fundamental human rights not only in one’s own country but also abroad. Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. They reflect also the relationships between individual nations as well the status of a country within the international community of nations. The main travel document is passport. Citizenship documented in passport regulates the level of free movement over borders; holder of one passport can travel relatively free around the globe while the choices of the holder of other passport are very limited. So passports can be ranked according to the visa-free access their holders.

Visa restrictions change according to the political situation at any given time. For example some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free, but the breakup wars changed situation completely. The “European perspective” is key concept for integrating western Balkans into EU. For ordinary people freedom of movement might be the main carrot after nearly 20 years of isolation.

My Passport Rank table below ranks passports according to how many countries it gives visa-free access. To table I have collected the Balkan countries and for comparison the best and the worst positions. I have also indicated the change during last two years describing to how many countries more the passport gives visa-free access compared to situation on 2012. As source I have used the data published in “The Henley Visa Restrictions Index”. (Source and more about H&P please visit in their homepage )

And here is my ”Passport Rank 2014: Balkans”:

Passport Rank 2014 – Balkans by Ari Rusila
Rank Passport of country Visa free access tocountries 2014/2012

+o-

1 Finland, Sweden, UK 173 +3-4
4 Denmark, Germany, USA, Luxemburg 172 +3-6
8 Belgium, Italy, Netherlands 171 +3-4
21 Greece 167 +3
31 Slovenia 155 +4
46 Bulgaria, Romania 141 +3-4
59 Croatia 129 +10
71 Serbia 104 +5
72 Macedonia (FYR) 103 +6
74 Montenegro 98 +4
80 Bosnia-Herzegovina 91 +4
81 Albania 88 +4
189 Kosovo 38 +1
197 Pakistan, Somalia 32 +1-4
199 Iraq 31 +1
200 Afghanistan 28 +2

To travel from one country to other is a fundamental freedom restricted however more or less depending about which passport the traveler holds. Generally speaking the freedom of movement has increased a lot globally as well in Balkans. Apart that I would like to point out some trivia. The new Kosovo passport, first issued by the Kosovo Government in July 2008, is still one of the least useful travel documents ever designed. Passports for example from North Korea, Myanmar, Yemen and Syria are more valid than Kosovo passport as well one from the newest countries – South Sudan.

Some half of UN member states was fooled or pressured on for recognize Kosovo’s second declaration of independence, but Kosovo passport gives visa-free access only to less than 40 countries. On the other hand Taiwan ( also UN outsider) has diplomatic relations with 23 countries but its passport holders can travel visa free to 130 countries. In Europe only Pridnestrovie – aka Transdniestria aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR) – may be a country which passport has less use abroad than Kosovo passport as no country has recognised its independence. From the bright side now the majority of former Kosovo Serbs can have visa-free travel abroad as they are residing in Serbia because they could not return to their homes in Kosovo after ethnic cleansing made by Kosovo Albanians on 1999 and 2004. (My view about Kosovo in my articleCaptured Pseudo-State Kosovo)

Passport is not only travel document – it has also its wider political and business aspects. For example Romania distributes its passports to its Moldovan neighbours (rank 138) so that they can travel easier e.g in EU. Russia (rank 75) gives easily passports to Ukrainians (rank 96) to make stronger ties with Russian-speaking population abroad. During Balkan wars it was also quite popular to give Bosnian passports to foreign Muslim-fighters or Jihadists (and later leading al Qaeda figures) for their support in civil war.

It is estimated that that every year, several thousand people spend a collective $2 bn ( €1.5bn) to add a second, or even third, passport to their collection. Those with money can select from half a dozen countries offering a direct citizenship-by-investment route with no residency requirements. The cheapest deal for citizenship is on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica (rank 83) where for an investment of $100,000 plus various fees, as well as an in-person interview on the island, citizenship can be bought. In better ranking Cyprus (rank 38) the costs are between €2-5 million depending program. Last year the government of Malta announced proposals to start selling citizenship of its nation to foreigners for €650,000, however after EU pressure applicants will now be required to spend at least a year in Malta in order to qualify. Several European Union countries – e.g UK, Spain, Belgium – or USA do not offer citizenship for purchase outright, but do offer residence permits to wealthy individuals; that include free movement within the Schengen area, in exchange for high fees and the requirement to invest in the country.


The passport rank shows also one peculiarity related to international aid and development. In Balkans besides Kosovo also Bosnia-Herzegovina together with Albania have the worst scores despite the fact that EU and international community have guided and supervised these regions towards “European standards” nearly twenty years with huge state- and capasity building measures and billions of bucks. So has EU failed with this task as those countries without outside supervision are getting visa-freedom earlier?

One could also conclude or claim that the EU is isolating three mainly Muslim European states/regions – Albania, BiH and Kosovo – and Turkey (rank 76, visa-free access to 94 countries) as some in the EU fear the presence of such a large, Muslim community inside traditionally Christian Europe. Of course EU denies political aspects and highlights only the technical ones but from Balkan perspective the impression can differ.


Passport Rank 2012 – Balkans

October 1, 2012

The “European perspective” is key concept for integrating western Balkans into EU. For ordinary people freedom of movement might be the main carrot after nearly 20 years of isolation. Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. They reflect also the relationships between individual nations as well the status of a country within the international community of nations.

Visa restrictions change according to the political situation at any given time. For example some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free, but the breakup wars changed situation completely.

The main travel document is passport. Citizenship documented in passport regulates the level of free movement over borders; holder of one passport can travel relatively free around the globe while the choices of the holder of other passport are very limited. So passports can be ranked according to the visa-free access their holders.

Henley & Partners is a firm specialized in international immigration, consular and citizenship law and it has analyzed the visa regulations of all the countries and territories in the world. The following table ”Passport Rank 2012” is based to data published in “The Henley Visa Restrictions Index”. (Source and more about H&P please visit in their homepage )

My Passport Rank table below ranks passports according to how many countries it gives visa-free access. To table I have collected the Balkan countries, the BRIC countries, the U.S. and for comparison the best and the worst three positions. I have also indicated the change during last four years describing to how many countries more the passport gives visa-free access compared to situation on 2008.

And here is my ”Passport Rank 2012”:

Passport Rank 2012 – Balkans by Ari Rusila
Rank Passport of country Visa free access to countries 2012/
2008
+o-
1 Denmark 169 +12
2 Finland, Germany, Sweden 168 +12
3 Belgium, France, Netherlands, UK 167 +12
4 USA 166 +12
7 Greece 162 +13
16 Slovenia 151 +12
22 Brazil 141 +19
25 Romania 138 +22
26 Bulgaria 137 +22
37 Croatia 119 +11
45 Serbia 99 +49
47 Macedonia (FYR) 97 +48
49 Russia, Montenegro 94 +44
52 Bosnia-Herzegovina 87 +47
55 Albania 84 +47
82 India 51 +14
92 China 41 +8
96 Kosovo 37 +32
101 Iraq 30 +7
102 Somalia 28 +3
103 Afghanistan 26 +4

Generally speaking the freedom of movement has increased a lot globally as well in Balkans. Apart that I would like to point out some trivia. The new Kosovo passport, first issued by the Kosovo Government in July 2008, is still one of the least useful travel documents ever designed. Kosovo’s second declaration of independence has been recognized by 91 UN member states and Taiwan, but Kosovo passport gives visa-free access only to less than 40 countries. Also about 130 UN Member Nations have recognized the State of Palestine (Palestinian Territory), however its passport gives visa-free access only to 32. On the other hand Taiwan ( also UN outsider) has diplomatic relations with 23 countries but its passport holders can travel visa free to 120 countries.

 

Earlier I have covered this topic e.g. with following articles:


Kosovo – an captured independence

November 26, 2009

Free movement is one fundamental human rights not only in one’s own country but also abroad. While speaking about Balkans I earlier have highlighted (e.g. “Forgotten Refugees – West Balkans“) the situation of Serb refugees or IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) who can not return to their original homes in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo. The fear is restricting also movement of Serbs living behind barbed wire in Kosovo enclaves. Besides refugees and IDPs also ordinary citizens can have restricted movement depending which passport they hold.
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.



Now a discussion paper made by European Stability Initiative (ESI) poppet to my eyes describing visa regulations in Kosovo with quite surprising outcome – people from all ethnic groups living in province can go visa free only to five countries while even people with Afghanistan passport (ranked as country which has the least travel freedom in the world) can go to 22 countries visa free. And this happens in Europe, in region which is on the road to EU membership, in province where EU has squandered billions of Euro to build international standards.

 

On the table below I have collected data from Henley & Partners ‘Visa Restriction Index’ 2008. I included rankings of top and lowest three ranks, ranks of Balkan and BRIC countries. From ESI paper I added Kosovo province (Kosovo is part of Serbia according UNSC resolution 1244/99, the current status can be described as international protectorate).

Rank Passport of country Visa free access no
1 Denmark 157
2 Finland, Ireland, Portugal 156
3 Belgium, Germany, Sweden, USA 155
14 Slovenia 139
23 Brazil 122
25 Bulgaria 116
26 Romania 115
29 Croatia 108
53 Russia 60
62 Serbia, Montenegro 50
72 Bosnia-Herzegovina 40
75 India 37
76 Albania 36
79 China 33
87 Iran 25
88 Iraq 23
89 Afghanistan 22
90 Kosovo 5

In February 2008 Kosovo declared independence. France was the first EU member state to recognize the new state, followed by Germany, Great Britain, and all but five other EU member states (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain). The new Kosovo passport, first issued by the Kosovo Government in July 2008, is currently one of the least useful travel documents ever designed. Its holders can travel to only 5 countries visa free: neighbouring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, Turkey, and Haiti.

Latest developments

In my earlier article “EU’s visa freedom dividing Balkans” I described how “European perspective” is applied different ways in West Balkans. Briefly of the five regional states involved in the visa-liberalisation process, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro have been approved for visa-free travel within the EU, as of January 2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania have been told that they might receive EU visa-free status later. Kosovo, on the other hand, has not been included in the process, as five of the 27 members of the EU have not recognised Kosovo’s independence.

In December 2008 the EU dispatched a Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) to Kosovo. It currently fields more than 1,622 EU and 1,021 local staff (total: 2,643). With an annual budget of over Euro 200 million it is the biggest EU mission of its kind ever launched. Its objective is to assist the development of Kosovo’s security and judicial institutions.
Schengen process, unilateral declaration of independence and EULEX raised expectations among Kosovo Albanians. However after civil war and these events Kosovo anyway remains one of the most isolated places on earth. While looking backwards the near history of region the change is quite drastic – some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free anywhere.
In August 2008 Serbia started issuing biometric passports, an EU roadmap requirement. A lucky 7,141 Kosovars received one. But in 2009 the European Commission asked Serbia to stop the issuance to Kosovars until a specific ‘Coordination Directorate’ at the Ministry of the Interior in Belgrade would be set up as the only body authorised to provide Kosovo residents with passports. Since the issuing authority is always mentioned in passports, this would make the passports of Kosovo residents distinguishable – and exclude their holders from visa free travel. In June 2009 Serbia thus stopped issuing biometric passports to Kosovo residents (including Kosovo Serbs).

Today’s outcome is the Commission proposal to add Kosovo to the Schengen ‘Black List’ as a territory on whose status the EU cannot yet agree (i.e. under UN Security Council resolution 1244), next to the Palestinian Authority and Taiwan. And the Commission did not even mention the possibility of a visa liberalisation process for Kosovo.

More from my main source ESI document.

Some other peculiarities

The wording of the European Commission proposal of 15 July 2009 stresses that visa free travel for Kosovars constitutes an overwhelming security risk. In the words of the Commission:

Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/99 shall be added to Annex I of Regulation so that persons residing in Kosovo shall be submitted to the visa requirement. This proposal is motivated exclusively by objectively determined security concerns regarding in particular the potential for illegal migration stemming from and transiting through Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/1999. This is without prejudice to the current status of Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/1999.

This ‘security risk’ idea, supported by some influential member states, would explain the Commission’s insistence on withholding visa free travel even from those Kosovo citizens equipped with new biometric Serbian passports – as opposed to withholding it from holders of Serbian biometric passports from any other country in the world (such as Bosnia and Herzegovina).
One other peculiarity related to country status visa freedom connection is the case of Taiwan. At this very moment, a serious visa dialogue between the European Commission and the Republic of Taiwan is under way. Taiwan has not been recognized by so much as a single EU member state. And yet, this is not seen as an obstacle. In mentioned Henley & Partners ‘Visa Restriction Index’ 2008 Taiwan has rank 54 and county’s passport holders can travel visa free to 59 countries.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is another strange example in Balkans. While most Bosnian Croats already have Croatian passports (with access to 108 countries) and since Republika Srpska residents can apply for and obtain Serbian passports (with access to 50 countries now and more 2010 after White list implementation), the Bosniaks with passport of Bosnia-Herzegovina can travel visa free only to 40 countries and will so far stay in Black list.

In Europe Pridnestrovie – aka Transnistria aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR) – may be a country which passport has less use abroad than Kosovo passport as no country has recognised its independence. The region has practically been independent – if not recognized – state already over 17 years. Transdnistria has all statehood elements, more developed than e.g. Kosovo’s, its economy is relatively good with export to over 100 countries and it can manage without UN seat. The bright side of story is the fact that people living in Pridnestrovie however can use their Russian or Moldovan passports for travels abroad. More about Kosovo-Pridnestrovie comparison one may find from my article “Transnistria follow-up”.

Bottom line

In my earlier article “EU’s visa freedom dividing Balkans” I concluded following:

There is also well based arguments that the EU is isolating three mainly Muslim European states/regions – Albania, BiH and Kosovo – and Turkey as some in the EU fear the presence of such a large, Muslim community inside traditionally Christian Europe. Of course EU denies political aspects and highlights only the technical ones but from Balkan perspective the impression can differ.

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.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina the EU’s message now weakens already non-existent national identity and opposes EU’s earlier multi-ethnic ideals. In Kosovo some NGOs send a letter to EU where they state that Kosovo`s exclusion from the visa-liberalisation process threatens to transform Kosovo “into a ghetto without any way out”.
EU and international community have guided and supervised these regions towards “European standards”. So has EU failed with this task as those countries without outside supervision are getting visa-freedom earlier?

Sources of this article:

ESI Discussion Paper: Isolating Kosovo? Kosovo vs Afghanistan 5:22


European Stability Initiative (ESI) is a non-profit research and policy institute, created in recognition of the need for independent, in-depth analysis of the complex issues involved in promoting stability and prosperity in Europe. ESI was founded in June 1999 by a multi-national group of practitioners and analysts with extensive experience in the regions it studied.


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.


My earlier article Visa rank and the western Balkans


Visa rank and the Western Balkans

December 19, 2008

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 BalkansSchengen 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.



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