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Visa-free travel extended in Western Balkans

Citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia can travel freely to the Schengen zone, including Switzerland, without restriction from midnight on Friday.

The lifting of travel restrictions for 10 million people in the Western Balkans marks a symbolic end to an era of isolation and instability in the troubled region.

“The visa abolishment has restored the rights that other citizens of the European Union enjoy, the freedom of movement and the feeling that we belong to the European family,” interior ministers of the three countries said in a joint statement.

Travel restrictions will remain in place for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania, but these will be reviewed next year.

The visa-free policy applies to the Schengen area, which covers 25 EU member states, as well as three non-EU members – Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia enjoyed visa-free travel to western Europe for 40 years as part of the six-member Yugoslav federation, which was the only communist country that allowed its citizens to travel freely abroad.

Visa requirements were first introduced as the federation was breaking up in 1991 in a series of conflicts that lasted until 1999.

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