Kosovar restaurant bans Europeans over visa dispute: ‘It made us angry’

Kosovar restaurant bans Europeans over visa dispute: 'It made us angry'

“It’s a sign of rebellion and despair,” Mama restaurant owner Shpejatim Pefkeli told AFP. “As a citizen of Kosovo, I feel very bad.”

The former Serbian province, which declared its independence in 2008, has long demanded that its residents be exempted from short-stay visas to allow them to travel freely in the 26 countries of the Schengen area, most of which are members of the European Union.

The EU executive ruled in 2018 that Pristina had met all the necessary conditions. But the Kosovars, who number 1.8 million, are the only residents of the western Balkans who have to travel across the Schengen area to acquire a mole, a long obstacle course that is often experienced as an embarrassment.

Many Kosovars had set high hopes at the recent EU/Western Balkan summit, but this did not lead to any progress in this area.

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“It made us angry. We saw that we were humiliated in a way. That’s where the idea of ​​doing something for my country came from. To protest”, the 50-year-old restaurant continues.

The campus of EULEX, the European mission in charge of the rule of law in the region, is right in front of the restaurant and many Europeans who work there frequent the establishment.

“I decided to stop them (from coming) first,” he said, explaining that he was not concerned about the frequency of the restaurant, which claims to have one of the most Italian-inspired menus. prosperous in the capital.

Shortly after the meeting in Brussels, Schpeztim Pefkeli posted the following message in front of his restaurant: “No entry for European citizens without a visa. Restaurant Mama”.

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Mama’s boss says, “There were two Bulgarians at the table at the time. When I told them to take their time to finish their food and drink, they laughed.”

North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia received visa exemptions in 2009, followed a year later by Albania and Bosnia.

Of the 199 countries classified according to the freedom of movement offered by their passports, the Henley Index is only ten behind Kosovo, which includes North Korea, Syria and Afghanistan.

Shpejtim Pefqeli’s decision is illegal but few agree with him. “It’s a very good initiative,” responds 26-year-old engineer Waldrin Januzzi. “Everybody has to do something constructive, so this problem and this injustice can be better seen.”

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