Serbia postpones simplification of the procedure for granting citizenship to foreigners

The Serbian authorities have announced a delay in simplifying the procedure for granting citizenship to foreigners after the European Union (EU) warned that it could cancel the visa-free regime with Serbia due to possible security risks.

The Serbian Ministry of the Interior drafted a bill in March, according to which foreigners who lived in the country on a residence permit and worked officially in a Serbian company or were self-employed could apply for citizenship. Currently, to obtain a Serbian passport, you must live in the country for at least five years.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the authorities were ready to speed up the granting of citizenship to Ukrainians and Russians, as the country lacks labor. However, the European Commission expressed concern that the simplification of the procedure for granting citizenship could lead to possible security risks for the EU, and warned that it could cancel the visa-free regime with Serbia.

The EC said in a statement that European authorities last year gave “clear recommendations” to Belgrade to “refuse or refrain from accepting citizenship by investment schemes.” This practice, whereby foreign investors can acquire citizenship in exchange for investment in the country’s economy, is of concern to many European countries.

The Serbian government is likely to withdraw the bill due to pressure from the EU, experts on the Balkans say. “Usually, when the European Commission gives a negative opinion, it becomes difficult for Serbia to push for a law,” said Jelena Jankic, co-director of the Italian think tank Global Citizenship Observatory.

In addition, the adoption of a law to simplify the procedure for granting citizenship to foreigners has caused concern among some citizens of Serbia, who fear that this may lead to an increase in immigration flow into the country and the threat to their jobs.

In turn, the Serbian government noted that the new bill does not provide for the granting of citizenship to foreigners without sufficient guarantees of security and economic benefits for the country.

It is also worth noting that for Serbia, a visa-free regime with the EU is an important step towards European integration and convergence with European standards. Therefore, the decision of the Serbian government to withdraw the draft law on the simplification of the procedure for granting citizenship to foreigners can be considered a logical step in this situation.

Despite this, the problem of labor shortage in Serbia remains relevant, and the government of the country will look for other ways to solve this problem. Perhaps in the future another draft law will be proposed that can resolve this problem without violating EU requirements.

In general, the situation with the bill to simplify the procedure for granting citizenship to foreigners in Serbia is another example of how migration and security issues in Europe continue to be relevant and cause fierce discussions and confrontation between governments of different countries.

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