The European Union could lift visa obligations for Bosnians and Albanians later this year, but both countries must bolster efforts to meet the EU's "security" requirements, the bloc's Spanish presidency said on Thursday.
The EU's executive Commission recommended this month that citizens of Bosnia and Albania be allowed to travel to the EU without visas, in a move aimed at supporting stability and democratic reforms in the two western Balkan countries.
However, they still have to persuade the bloc's member states and parliament that they meet the requirements of visa-free travel.
"We hope they will fulfil the obligations by the autumn," Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters after meeting his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.
"We have asked them to make greater efforts to make sure (they are ready)," he said.
In the coming months, the two states will have to demonstrate stronger efforts to combat corruption and organised crime and to bolster law enforcement.
Both have been promised eventual membership of the European Union, but to achieve that they will have to overcome reluctance among EU citizens to admit states tainted by corruption.
Such worries have risen since Romania and Bulgaria, members since 2007, failed to fulfil their promise to fight graft effectively. Greece's debt woes, in part linked to corruption, have also put abuse in the spotlight.
According to Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog, Bosnia and Albania are more graft-prone than any EU member or than Rwanda and China.
Many EU governments are reluctant to offer any firm date for visa liberalisation for the two countries because of concerns over unfinished preparations, diplomats said.
"It's too early to speak of dates (for visa liberalisation) when benchmarks have not been met yet," an EU diplomat said.
ReutersLast Mod: 04 Haziran 2010, 09:10