Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Romania's lifting visas for Kosovo could lead to recognition, analysts say

By lifting visa requirements for Kosovo citizens, Bucharest might be changing its position on Kosovo's independence, some say.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina

The recent visa liberalisation for Kosovo citizens travelling to Romania could initiate the use of public diplomacy to change Bucharest's perception of Kosovo's independence, analysts said.

"The recognition from Romania would be a very positive step. Romania, Slovakia and Greece have shown in the last year a constructive and not-blocking position after the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on Kosovo regional representation was reached," Fatmir Curri, a European Integration Programme co-ordinator at the Kosovar Civil Society Foundation, said.

One expert said that visits to Romania from Kosovo NGOs, businesses and cultural representatives can help change the perception of Kosovo in the country, and possibly lead to recognition.

"Any free movement creates new bridges of communication and recognition of the reality between the people," Curri said.

Artan Korenica, a Kosovo photographer, opened an exhibition of his work in Bucharest this year, titled "Don't look down at me." The show included 40 photos of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities from Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. The exhibition is on display at the National Museum of Bucharest until February.

Korenica told SETimes he found great support in Bucharest, starting from the managers of the Museum of the Romanian Peasants, the media and the Romanian citizens.

"We were very welcome. When we opened the exhibition, we also expressed our wish that Romania would recognise Kosovo, and there were no bad reactions," he said.

"Similarity in some traditions, common words of their language and ours, hospitability, made us feel home," Korenica added.

For artists like him, it is a relief to have the extra Romanian visas removed.

"You had to go, apply, have an invitation … Freedom of movement is important for everyone, even more for an artist and for the communication between the states and the people," Korenica said.

Any move towards recognition would encourage other countries towards recognition, but this is not expected to happen soon.

According to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lifting the visa does not mean recognition is around the corner.

"The way we report to Pristina's unilateral independence remains the same. But this position doesn't run counter to identifying a modus operandi by means of which we can contribute to enhancing EU's influence in the Western Balkans as a whole," the ministry said.

Kosovo Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi said the recognition of Kosovo's passport is expected soon by other states that have not recognised the country's independence. Spain, Greece and Cyprus do not recognise Kosovo passports, although 150 states, plus China and Brazil consider it valid.

Selimi said that he expects that the five EU members that have not recognised Kosovo as a state will do it soon as a result of the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

Correspondent Paul Ciocoiu in Bucharest contributed this report.

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