The German embassy in Belgrade is only one of the diplomatic missions in the Serbian capital with visa applicants queuing up outside. But this line-up is almost permanent. Serbs need visas to travel to the Schengen countries.
Schengen groups almost all the EU states, plus non-EU Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Tamara goes through this every time she goes to visit to her boyfriend.
Tamara STOJONOVIC, in English:
“You have to apply with a huge amount of papers and also because the EU doesn't recognize Serbian health insurance, then you have to have an additional health insurance that it costs if you go for one month around 50 euro additional and again you have to pay for the visa which is 35 euro.”
Language challenges make the process that much harder.
Miroljub DJUKIC, in Serbian:
“My daughter has sent me a written invitation for my granddaughter's birthday party."
The European Commission has proposed that the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians be allowed to travel without a visa for the EU from this coming January.
Maja and Tamara, sisters, age 25 and 28, of a new Serbian generation, grasp any chance to travel and to study abroad. One has a political science degree and the other's an economist. They have an aunt who is Italian, the sort of thing that can help with a visa; you need an invitation letter from someone in an EU member state when you apply.
Maja TRGOVČEVIĆ, Student, in English:
“I am lucky because I have always somebody there who can send me a letter of invitation. There are people who do not have that.”
Tamara came back to Belgrade after eight years' studying and working in Italy and Belgium.
Tamara TRGOVČEVIĆ, Economist, in English:
“After a year in Brussels, my visa expired and I came back to Belgrade.”
Tamara now has a job here. Maja is taking a masters' environmental degree.
Few of Belgrade University's students are free to travel in the EU unconditionally. Most are enrolled in International Relations.
Ivan VEJVODA, Student, in English:
“It segregates the country and especially the youth from the rest of Europe. In a way that they don't know what is outside of Serbia and so, they automatically become more xenophobic since they cannot meet people from abroad.”
Marija NIKIC, Student, in English:
“It really takes a lot of patience and time and sometimes you just give up your trip or something and don't go.”
Nikola VESELINOVIC, Student, in English:
“I was the only guy in the airplane I was checked probably because I was from Serbia. I don't know.”
Maja TRGOVČEVIĆ, Student, in English:
"Hi, I have my visa. I have got it for six months. Do you want to see?"
The hurdles aren't reserved for students: Marko travels for the family business, Amphora, supplier of office and school supplies. Since his parents don't speak English well, he's often the one to attend meetings abroad. He's got a visa for three years at the moment, but before he got that, crossing certain borders was often touch and go, such as once when entering Romania.
Marko MARKOVIC, Sales Manager, “AMPHORA”, in English:
“Should I take this custom guy or this custom guy? Which one is gonna let me go through? I take this one and he tells me: You have Schengen, you can pass, the another guy told me: No he is a Serbian citizen, he cannot enter and they argued for half and hour whether I can or I cannot enter in the country.”
The non-governmental organisation Grupa 484 has worked hard trying to make it easier for Balkan countries' citizens to travel. This member couldn't get to a job conference in Italy in 2003.
Danilo RAKIC, Policy Officer, GRUPA 484, in English:
“I was rejected without any explanation. In this way I was told that I wasn't welcome to enter in the EU. It was a huge humiliation.”
Serbs in creative work don't have it easy travelling around the EU, either. Popular young writer Marko has just presented his latest novel at t...
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