Will the EU be bringing back the visa requirement for nationals of the western Balkans? On France and Germany’s initiative, six member states of the EU want tighter controls on migrants arriving from Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania.

Among these countries is Sweden, which has taken in more than 34,000 asylum seekers since the start of the year, including 5,276 Syrians. Most, though, are from the Balkans. The position of the centre-right government has divided the Swedish press.

Liberal daily Dagens Nyheter notes that in these last eight months “more asylum seekers have arrived from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, where visas are no longer needed to get into the EU, than from Syria, which is going through a civil war.”

“Many asylum seekers,” the newspaper explains —

... are Roma, who suffer harsh discrimination in their country of origin. Because almost none have valid reasons for obtaining refugee status, less than one percent are allowed to stay in Sweden. [...] It may seem cynical to erect barriers to Roma. [...] The priority, after all, is to provide shelter to people fleeing the bloodshed in Syria and the war in Afghanistan. [...] There may be better solutions, but what is essential is that the EU demands and makes a contribution to social equality, especially regarding the Roma. Serbia, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina are candidates for accession to the EU. This is a chance to put some pressure on them… Sweden and the EU cannot take in everyone who is treated badly (at home). But we can make tough demands that all people be treated well.

Aftonbladet, for its part, stresses that “the visa exemption for the western Balkans, which was introduced in 2009 and 2010, has been a great success.” For the historically social-democratic daily —

The exemption offered freedom, but also sent an important political signal. The western Balkans are part of Europe and are welcome in the European Community. It is therefore alarming that [Immigration Minister] Billström is now open to the idea of suspending the visa exemption. Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt was quite right when he raised the issue of visas last week. ‘Such signals whip up the nationalist forces in the Balkans,’ he stated, ‘and that is not something that is in our interest.’ Aftonbladet’s editorial page seldom agrees with Carl Bildt, but in this case he knows what he is talking about. Billström should listen.