by Sanja Kostovska
The visa liberalization for Macedonia is a definitely big step for the country and it was enthusiastically greeted by the Macedonian citizens. Moreover, the visa liberalization process not only for Macedonia but for all 3 countries that got visa free regime has strengthened the leverage of EU in the Balkans through the principle of conditionality that I am sure would be a strong enough motivation for Bosnia and Albania to speed up their reform pace in this regard.
However, the outcome of the visa liberalization process must not be taken for granted that this course of events will be reflected on the process of opening of accession negotiations for Macedonia. These were two different processes, and although many people in Macedonia were hoping that green light for visa free travel will later mean setting a date for accession negotiation this did not happened at the December Council of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately, the decision on opening accession negotiations is burdened by an additional political criterion, which is out of the scope of the Copenhagen criteria-a solution of the name dispute with Greece.
At the beginning, the citizens were confused regarding the benefits of the visa liberalization, many of them hoping that this could mean possibility for them to find a job in EU. Having in mind that this issue was very much present in the public focus this dilemma has been overcome.
Regarding the consequences of the visa free regime I do not foresee dramatic migration flow. Macedonia had more or less stable trend of illegal immigration during the past years which was very low compared to the other countries in the WB. I don’t think that this will be changed with the visa liberalization. However, the visa liberalization will have a negative impact on the Macedonian tourism which is still struggling to find its place at least at the regional stage, and lived mostly of domestic tourists or tourists from the WB countries, who now due to the cheaper touristic arrangements in the EU countries will circumvent the Macedonian touristic offer.
The benefits of the visa liberalization will be mostly felt by the students, businessmen and the tourists who will finally have a chance without any unnecessary and humiliating administrative procedures to travel to EU.