Kosovars fume at new delay in accessing EU visa-free travel | News

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The European Union’s delay in allowing visa-free travel for the people of Kosovo has spread dismay and resentment in the continent’s newest state, and one Pristina businessman has retaliated by hitting EU officials where it hurts — the stomach.

Mama’s restaurant owner Shpetim Pevqeli, 50, who has catered for more than a decade to employees at the EU’s rule of law mission headquarters across the road, put up a sign Tuesday reading: “Protest, no entry, for EU citizens without visa.”

While that may seem no more than a stunt, frustration among Kosovars over the delay in getting into the 27-nation bloc’s so-called Schengen visa-free travel area is real. As things are, they have to wait for hours to apply for a visa to the EU, where many have family members living.

“I have an official invitation from Austria. But I have been waiting and waiting and waiting. What can I do next?” said an angry Faik Ibriqi, 60, queueing at the Swiss diplomatic representation office where many Kosovars apply for the Schengen visa.

Last week Kosovars had hoped that EU leaders meeting to discuss, among other things, their country’s accession prospects would rule on the matter. But it was not discussed.

In July 2018 Kosovo fulfilled all required visa liberalization benchmarks. Both the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, and the European Parliament have called for it to join the visa-free regime.

It doesn’t help that five EU member countries have not even recognized Kosovo as a country. Pristina declared independence in 2008, following its de facto secession from Serbia after a war in 1998-1999.

When they still lived in a province in the former Yugoslavia Kosovars, who are mostly ethnic Albanians, were free to move everywhere. Now some of them turn to neighboring Albania — which has Schengen access — to get a passport.

“Someone wants to go to his aunt, or his brother (in the EU) and when we learnt (there was no EU decision) again we were desperate, humiliated and that’s where the idea came from” for the ban on EU employees, said Pevqeli, the restaurant owner.

“We need to do something, a protest because (the visa situation) is not right and the protest will show our rancor, our despair,” he added.

Last week a disillusioned Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said peace and stability in Europe were inconceivable without integrating Western Balkan nations.

“Kosovo people want more possibilities and progress. They want a no-visa regime to see, feel and live in Europe,” she said, adding that Kosovo citizens “remain isolated at the heart of the continent where they live.”

Kosovo lost more than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, during the 1998-1999 fight to break away from Serbia. It ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbia to pull its troops out and cede control to the United Nations and NATO.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. The United States and most of the West recognize Kosovo’s independence, but Serbia — supported by allies Russia and China — does not.

Pevqeli said he was confident no EU officials would be coming to eat. “They will understand the sign is for them and they do respect that,” he said.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

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Drivers fume at Chelson Meadow tip queues amidst a national lockdown

Drivers have expressed their rage at the number of vehicles queuing for Chelson Meadow tip today.

For the second time in three days, there have been massive queues for the recycling centre, with some claiming they were stuck in traffic ‘for at least an hour’.

One driver told Plymouth Live there have been huge delays in the area all day, which ‘makes you hardly believe the lockdown was still on’.

Both recycling centres remain open throughout the third national lockdown.

Chelson Meadow is open between 8.30am and 5.30pm seven days a week.

Queues for Chelson Meadow on Monday

One driver expressed their disbelief at the queues. They told us: “I drove past The Ride this morning at around 9.30am and there were vehicles was queuing right back up to Billacombe Road.

“But going past a few hours later at around 1pm and the queue has lengthened and stretched across the whole of Laira Bridge and back further along Embankment Lane and Laira Bridge Road.

“It’s jamming up the streets around the bridge as well so that motorists wanting to turn right from Finnigan Road are getting stuck in the jams.

“You’d hardly believe the lockdown was still on. Either everyone’s taking a year’s worth of garden waste and their Christmas trees in for composting or there’s been a lot of DIY work done in the last few days.”

Another said: “Accessing the tip every other day is not much of an inconvenience. Waiting in a polluting queue for over an hour!”

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There were similar scenes on Saturday, where cars were reportedly being turned away due to the sheer size of the queues.

There were “around 50 or 60 cars waiting to get out”, one driver told us.

Plymouth Highways tweeted at 10.32am on Monday: “Traffic is currently very slow heading towards Plymstock on Laira Bridge due to large amounts of traffic trying to access Chelson Meadow Recycling Centre”.

Traffic website Inrix reports: “Slow traffic due to due to traffic queuing for the recycling centre on A379 Laira Bridge Road in both directions near Chelson Meadow Recycling Centre.

“Recycling centre remains open during lockdown”.

Huge queues for The Ride in Plymstock

A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said: “We have put a message out on our Facebook page asking people to think about how essential their trip is and if it is, to think about going when it is less busy – which is either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.

“We had to close Chelson Meadow for a few hours over the weekend to help reduce the queues and the good weather today means we are really busy again.

“Staff are not able to help unload or carry waste, so please only take items you can handle without help. We are still in a national lockdown with social distancing measures in place and visitors are asked to maintain a two-metre distance from each other and staff at all times.

“Chelson Meadow Recycling Centre is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm, seven days a week and Weston Mill Recycling Centre is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm every Saturday and Sunday.”

Live traffic and travel updates on Chelson Meadow and the A38 in Plymouth continue here.

Read more stories from Plymouth:

Thug who repeatedly stabbed a man outside Plymouth pub found guilty of attempted murder

Wetherspoon pub cordoned off after loose tiles spotted on Plympton building

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