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Serb Prime Minster Orders Action to Save EU Visa-Free Travel

Serbia will try to avoid a reintroduction of visas for its nationals traveling to the European Union after the number of false asylum-seekers rose in some EU member states.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic ordered ministries to take action because “protecting visa liberalization is one of the top priorities of the Serbian government,” his press office said in an e-mailed statement today.

The prime minister convened an emergency session of the committee supervising visa-free travel, which EU member states in the so-called Schengen area, a part of the 27-nation EU that allows passport-free travel, granted Serbia in December 2009.

The meeting followed media reports that some countries led by Germany want to restore visas for Serbs because of a surge in asylum-seekers. Dacic heads a government dominated by former nationalists and Socialists of ex-Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, whose rule in the 1990s was marked by wars, isolation, travel bans and economic mismanagement.

The committee analyzed the situation and developed a plan to clamp down on the increase in false asylum-seekers and plans to name a team to visit countries most affected by such claims, the office said.

Vincent Degert, head of the EU delegation to Serbia, said Oct. 10 that asylum applications rose by 200 percent in Switzerland, more than 20 percent in Sweden and Germany, and that almost 99 percent of the asylum seekers were sent back. “What Serbia wants and what the EU wants is to preserve the visa liberalization,” he said.

EU Candidate

Serbia became a candidate for EU membership in March. The country will get a date for the start of entry talks once the government improves ties with Kosovo, Serbia’s former province, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008.

Popular support in Serbia for EU membership declined in the three months to September, according to a survey presented by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policies today.

The survey, conducted Sept. 18-25, showed overall backing for the EU path dropped two percentage points to 47 percent while opposition to joining the EU rose 10 percentage points to 35 percent, Tanjug news agency reported, citing Sonja Stojanovic, the center’s director.

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