Kosovo cafe bans Europeans over visa ‘humiliation’

Europeans have been banned from a restaurant in Pristina in retaliation for the EU keeping its door shut to Kosovo passport holders. 

The symbolic gesture is “a sign of revolt and despair” said Shpejtim Pefqeli, the owner of Mama’s Restaurant, which is just across the road from the European Rule of Law Mission in the Kosovo capital.

Pefqeli once served up Italian fare to lots of Europeans, but not anymore.

His ban came after last week’s EU-Western Balkans summit, where Kosovo had hoped to be accepted into a scheme that would allow its citizens to visa free travel in Europe’s Schengen Area.

But by the summit’s end, the measure was not adopted even as Pristina argued that it fulfilled all the conditions.  

It was a devastating blow to many and came four years after the European Commission first said Kosovo was eligible for entry into the arrangement.  

Since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, the territory has been recognised by over 100 countries. But its passport still opens few doors. 

Indeed in languishes alongside Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and North Korea in the bottom 11 of the Henley index, which ranks countries according to the number of destinations their passport holders can visit.

With few visa-free destinations available, Kosovars are forced to wait weeks, if not months, while completing mountains of paperwork to secure the necessary documents to travel abroad. 

“We got angry. We saw that we were humiliated,” Pefqeli told AFP, saying he felt compelled to protest after the summit. 

Plastered at the entrance of his restaurant is a sign that now reads: “No entry for EU citizens without visa.”

“There were two Bulgarian women in the restaurant” when Pefqeli put up the sign. “They laughed when I told them not to hurry, but to finish their meal and drinks before they leave,” he said.

And while Pefqeli’s move to ban European diners is not exactly legal, passersby appeared to approve. 

“It seems very good to me,” said Valdrin Januzi, a 26-year-old engineer.

“Everyone should do something creative, because in this way the problem and this injustice stands out more.”