In 2009, citizens of Serbia were finally allowed to make short trips to Schengen zone countries without visas. This represented a victory for the regime in Belgrade. A whole generation of Serbians had been held back from European travel by the visa requirement that was introduced as Yugoslavia disintegrated. However, this victory came at a price. Schengen countries worried that the lifting of the visa barrier would trigger a flood of illegal workers and asylum seekers from Kosovo. The Serbian government, which considers Kosovo to be an autonomous province, had to come up with an expedient solution to reassure wealthier European countries that allowing Serbians to “enter” would not open the gates to a large number of problematic visitors. Eventually, Belgrade agreed to restrict the privilege of visa-free travel for residents of Kosovo, formally differentiating Kosovar citizens from “normal” citizens. The imperatives of international mobility have forced a country, in a sense, to redraw its boundaries and to acknowledge a different status for a section of its population from a province that it continues to claim. This essay unpacks the puzzle of why supporters of the “integral Kosovo” position in Serbia resigned themselves to the compromise. The central argument is that states seek to secure mobility not only for economic reasons but also to mark themselves as normal, respectable members of the international community. Serbia’s visa waiver decision provides a lens with which to view issues of mobility and national identity in one of the most complex and divided regions of the world.
Karthika Sasikumar; Serbia “Enters” Europe: International Mobility and the Redrawing of State Boundaries. Mediterranean Quarterly 1 June 2013; 24 (2): 59–80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10474552-2141899
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