Macedonia started talks Thursday (November 30th) on easing the visa regime for Macedonian citizens traveling to EU member-countries. The Macedonian government would like to complete the talks by mid-2007, though Brussels has signaled the pace will likely be slower.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and Interior Minister Gordana Jankulvoska attended the start of the talks. On the EU's side, the opening was attended by European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, who said he hoped the talks could be wrapped up by the end of next year.
According to the Macedonian Foreign Ministry, the first phase of the talks will concentrate on a few issues: reducing paperwork for several categories of visa seekers – including students, journalists, researchers, scientific workers, civil servants taking part in seminars or those traveling with official delegations.
Macedonia is also seeking the elimination of visa fees for most citizens, as well as a reduction in the time needed for obtaining a visa. In addition, Skopje would like to see the issuance of multiple visas with longer expiry dates.
To back up these requests, the Macedonian side is ready to put forward new biometric travel documents. Biometric passports will be available to citizens starting in March 2007. Macedonia will also argue that it has been conducting a successful fight against human trafficking, as well as implementing integrated border management and bringing the process of signing readmission agreements close to completion.
In general, the negotiators hope to convince Brussels that Macedonian citizens will not misuse their visas, and that Macedonia does not present a significant problem in terms of illegal migration and asylum seeking.