Historically, Luxembourg has developed during the last 68 years strong links with the Western Balkan countries. In 1970, a labour agreement was signed between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia to provide for workers to come to work in Luxembourg. This bilateral agreement created a diaspora from the Western Balkans in Luxembourg. Montenegrin nationals represent the largest third-country national population while the Serbians and the Bosnians represents the 3rd and 4th largest nationality groups. There has been a significant number of naturalisations from the West Balkan countries during the last 10 years. This diaspora was a significant “pull factor” during the Yugoslav Wars (1991-1999) and the economic crisis of 2008.
This study was unable to verify direct and automatic links between the entering into force of the visa liberalisation agreements with the West Balkans countries and Eastern Partnership countries and an impact for Luxembourg. The large majority of increases, independently if it is legal migration, irregular migration or international protection did not occur during the next year following the entering into force of the agreements. These increases occurred generally during the second year or later.
Concerning visa liberalisation agreements with the Western Balkan countries, the first findings are a dramatic increase of international protection applicants from those countries since the agreements came into force. In the international protection field and in the framework of the return decisions, the visa liberalisation agreement had a negative impact generating stress for all the public administrations during 2011 and 2012, which have to deal with international protection and the return mechanism. During 2011, there was a significant increase of applicants from Macedonia and Serbia and in 2012 from Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This situation placed the Luxembourgish authorities under significant stress to deal with this significant inflow of applicants, whose applications were, in the large majority of cases (80%), rejected.
However, this situation obliged the Luxembourgish government to take measures in order to deal in a very efficient manner with these inflows of international protection applicants as well as to overhaul the entire international protection procedure. These measures can be divided into two different: procedural measures and implementation measures. The most significant procedural measures are: a) the introduction of the fast track procedure and the implementation of the ultra-expedite procedure; b) the introduction of these countries in the list of safe countries of origin. These measures allow the authorities to deal more efficiently with the massive influx of international protection applicants coming from the region. The implementation measures are: a) No access to social aid for the applicant benefiting from a commitment to cover all expenses by a Luxembourg national, EU citizen or TCN residing in Luxembourg; b) substantial decrease in monthly cash amounts of social aid for adult individuals and households; c) Recruitment and reallocation of staff in the Directorate of Immigration and the Luxembourg Reception and Integration office; d) implementing the Assisted voluntary return Balkans (AVR Balkans) which only covers the return bus ticket; and e) strengthen cooperation with the authorities of the Western Balkan countries.
During 2017, there was an increase in the number of international protection applicants from Georgia and Ukraine, even though both countries are included in the list of safe countries of origin.
As Luxembourg does not have external borders with the exception of the International Airport, it is not possible to obtain pertinent information concerning the detection of irregular entries in the territory. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that some individuals from these countries have taken advantage of the visa liberalisation agreements to come to work irregularly in Luxembourg, even if it is not possible to quantify the scale of the phenomenon.
The findings of this study do not show an increase in the number of applications for authorisation of stay or residence permits (remunerated and study activities), so the EU visa liberalisation agreements did not have any impact in the legal migration field. The increase of application was visible after the second year of entering into force of these agreements but the numbers were not significant in regard with number of applications made by third-country nationals during the same period.
However, the short-stay visits (i.e. friends, family, tourism, etc.) seem not only to have been facilitated, but also increased. In some cases, these short-visits have also been used not only to visit family and friends but also to be familiarized with the Luxembourgish society and to explore job opportunities and look for housing. This is probably the only positive impact that the visa liberalization agreements have had.
Seen that the visa liberalisation agreements only allow travelling without a visa, but they do not allow working and staying in the country, and based on the data collected there is not possible to establish a link between them and any significant impact with regard to economy and to criminality (especially related to traffic of human beings or smuggling, where the numbers are very low and not directly related in most cases to nationals concerned by this study).