Serbian Authorities Confirm to ‘14ymedio’ That They Will Require a Visa From Cubans as of April 14

It is the first time since 1966, after the signing of an agreement between Belgrade and Havana, that Serbia demands this document from Cubans. (Facebook/Cubans in Serbia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 March 2023 — The consul and political advisor of the Embassy of Serbia in Havana, Jelena Zivojinovic, confirmed this Thursday to 14ymedio that as of April 14, Cubans will need a tourist or work visa to travel to the country. The measure, aimed at containing illegal emigration, may be revoked “in the future” if the citizens of the Island “demonstrate” that they can travel to the Balkan nation and return to Cuba, the diplomat said.

“We had to demand the visa,” says Zivojinovic, after explaining that the immigration situation has become unsustainable. For several years, Serbia has become the springboard for many Cubans to illegally access the European Union. “Cubans emigrate a lot,” he says, and they have reached the “category of red illegal migration”; hence, the country decided to put a stop to the free visa procedure.

Despite the restrictions, Zivojinovic recalled, “with a letter of invitation from someone in Serbia the visa will still be granted, in addition to the fact that there are many Cubans who travel for work.” The Secretary of the Embassy added that they will soon make available to interested parties, on their website, the forms and requirements to apply for the visa.

It is the first time since 1966, after the signing of an agreement between Belgrade and Havana, that Serbia demands this document from Cubans, although it is not known if Cuba will take a “reciprocity measure” and demand, in turn, a visa from the Serbs. At the end of 2022, when the Government of Belgrade withdrew the free visa to several countries such as India, Guinea Bissau, Burundi and Tunisia, it began to be suspected that the Island might enter the list of nations for which the demands would increase, as a result of pressure from the European Union.

In December 2022, after an incident in which a group of Cubans were prevented from traveling from Frankfurt (Germany) to Belgrade, the diplomatic headquarters assured this newspaper that there was no change in the immigration rule between the two countries and held the airline responsible.

This year, the situation of several groups of Cuban passengers has been reported who have not been allowed to enter Serbia, and who have remained for days in overcrowded conditions at Belgrade International Airport. Since March 24, twenty-three Cubans have been detained in shelters at the air terminal, according to YouTuber MH Europa.

The Cubans, who “intended to enter the country as tourists,” had their passports and were asked for 300 euros to process “a visa.” “The reality is that Serbia no longer wants more Cubans,” he said.

Last week, this newspaper reported that the immigration authorities of Serbia allowed the entry of 19 Cubans who were detained at that same airport. Eight others were deported, and the fate of at least eight others was unknown.

The establishment of the visa coincides, however, with several steps of economic rapprochement between the two countries. On Tuesday, the Island’s ambassador to Serbia, Leyde Ernesto Rodríguez Hernández — who took office just a few days ago, on March 16 — paid a visit to Jiri Marex and Bosko Rupic, executive and trade directors, respectively, of the Air Serbia company. According to a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rodríguez visited the airline’s headquarters to evaluate “the possibilities of establishing a direct flight between Belgrade and Havana.”

In addition, they agreed to stay in communication about “possible direct flights by tour operators in Serbia to the Cuban tourist market.” Other notes from the Cuban Foreign Ministry attest to the excellent state of trade relations between the two nations.

Asked about this contact of the island’s diplomats with Air Serbia, precisely when the access of Cubans to that country is restricted, Zivojinovic argued that “one thing has nothing to do with the other.” The project to establish a Havana-Belgrade connection “has been in the works for a long time,” he said. “Now it’s being finalized,” especially to stimulate Serbian tourism to Cuba.

In addition to tourism, Rodríguez has begun negotiations with entrepreneurs from Serbia in the industrial, agri-food and transport spheres and plans, together with the director of the Dynamic Elchem company, Milos Stefanovic, to achieve an investment to assemble “all the equipment for chocolate production.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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