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National Assembly Hosts an International Conference on “Visa Policy and Free Travel: Perspectives of the European Citizenship”
7 April 2008

The visa regimes and the European policy on free travel are discussed by parliamentarians and experts from Southeastern Europe at a 2 -day International conference in the Parliament. “Visa policies and free travel: Perspectives of the European Citizenship” is the subject of the forum opened on 7 April 2008 by the Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mladen Cherveniakov. The Conference is organized by the Regional Secretariat for parliamentary collaboration in South East Europe with the assistance of “Friedrich Ebert” Foundation.

The Head of the Information Council of the EU Commission Directorate General for Enlargement, Wenceslas de Lobkowicz presented the grounded in the European treaties European Council visa policies. He pointed to the fact that the common visa policy of the EU was a recent development that had become essential pillar for security and stability. He underscored that elimination of borders comes as a result of a continual process and fulfilment of conditions. Precondition to admittance in the Schengen space is based on a common decision by all partners he added. There is no fixed date for the complete removal of all internal borders.

Bulgaria as a full fledged member of the European Union enjoys the facilitations of free travel and has to conform to the limitations and requirements imposed by the European legislation regarding border control and access of third countries citizens said Chetin Kazak, member of the European Affairs Committee. He noted that the forum has discussed issues concerning the liberalization of the visa regime with the rest of the Balkan countries.
The difficulties come from the fact that after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in the EU and their forthcoming joining into the Schengen, the former relieved visa regime with certain countries has to become now more rigid. This worry has been voiced by the Macedonian representatives.

The Head of the Regional Secretariat for parliamentary cooperation in South East Europe, Vladimir Danchev ,explained that in conformity with the rules set up by the EU and based on negotiations, Bulgaria has the right to liberalize its visa requirements for the countries from the Region. This seems to be most immediate for the Western Balkan countries in particular. One of the aims of the Regional Secretariat is to organize similar events where exchange of views and experience in order to intensify the interparliamentary cooperation can be achieved. It can also contribute to the less painful advance of the region towards the European and Euro Atlantic institutions, he added.

“Free travel, civil society and visa policy”, “Visas – anachronism of the European integration” and “Free travel and the security risks” are the topics to be discussed on 8 April 2008 by the participants. Moderators of the sessions will be the Internal security and and Public Order Committee Chairman Mincho Spasov and the Civil Society and Media Committee Deputy Chair Vesela Draganova and MP Nadegda Mihailova.

Represenataives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey and Montenegro are taking part in the Conference.
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