Sarah speaks in the European Parliament about Bosnia and Albania visa liberalisation

October 6, 2010 12:00 AM

Sarah Ludford, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. −

Mr President, I would like to join with Commissioner Malmström in sincerely thanking Tanja Fajon for her committed and patient hard work. I have been a modest member of her team, under her leadership over the last eighteen months, in what I know she has and I have regarded as an extremely important exercise.

It is reported - and I am quoting from an English translation of the report - that the French European Affairs Minister, Pierre Lellouche, has called visa policy a matter of security. He apparently said in the Assemblée Nationale the other day that 'my position and that of the government is that the visa issue is a matter of security. It is not only a diplomatic present which we offer along the way'. As I say, I am quoting from an English translation.

Yes, we agree, but I will come back to the issue of security shortly. Of course - and Tanja Fajon dealt with that - it is not a diplomatic present. But he went on apparently to say that France would request security guarantees from the two countries. But that is exactly what the Commission has done, under the usual, carefully prepared roadmap which has had the full support of the Council of Ministers as well as of Parliament.

So all the points that Commissioner Malmström made were absolutely pertinent and she is also right to add that it must be made plain, and will, I am sure, be made plain to their citizens by the national authorities of those two countries, that it is a right that must not be abused; that it is a right for short-term travel, for tourism, for exchanges, for business and so on, and it is not for other purposes, including work.

But just to come back to that point about security in the broadest sense. The European Union is about security in the broadest sense and this is part of the whole exercise of opening up minds, of fighting nationalism, of fighting ethnic conflict, of building a continent on peace and prosperity, and that is what we want to open up the eyes of the citizens of those countries to.

We are all in this together and we hope to prepare them to become members of the European Union because the European Union is a security project. We made this deal. We said, if you jump through these hoops, you will get visa-free travel. If France or any other Member State had doubts about this journey, they should never have given support to the visa liberalisation roadmap. They must not now fail this promise.