The European Commission is mediating talks being held in Brussels on July 11 between Bulgaria and Romania, on the one side, and Canada on the visa system.
Sofia and Bucharest have warned that unless Ottawa lifts visa requirements for their citizens, they will not ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, due to be signed in October.
The quadripartite meeting is being hosted by European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and involves Canada’s immigration minister John McCallum, Bulgarian Deputy Interior Minister Philip Gounev, Deputy Foreign Minister Roumean Alexandrov and the head of the Romanian prime minister’s chancellery, Ioan Dragoș Tudorache.
The European Commission on July 5 formally proposed to the Council of the EU the signature and conclusion of the CETA free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.
In a report on July 11, Bulgarian National Radio said that the EC did not want the two issues – that of CETA and of the fact that unlike other EU citizens, Bulgarians and Romanians still need visas to enter Canada – linked.
BNR quoted an EC spokesperson as saying that CETA was a “good agreement” and it should be approved and implemented as soon as possible.
But under EU law, the European Commission is obliged to impose visa requirements for citizens of Canada unless that country fails to meet the deadline for visa reciprocity.
Canada, along with the United States, was in April given a three-month deadline to comply with EU visa reciprocity policy.
The visa reciprocity issue is expected to be discussed by the European Commission at a regular meeting on July 13.
Bulgaria and Romania argue that they meet the technical requirements for Canada for visa-free travel and insist on clear deadlines to resolve the issue before the EU-Canada summit in October.
According to a report by Canada’s CBC, McCallum’s office confirms that he would be in Brussels July 10 to 12 for meetings to support the adoption of CETA and “reiterate Canada’s position in regard to the visa reciprocity mechanism.”
However, “no events or announcements are planned during this trip,” spokesman Félix Corriveau told CBC News, the report said.
(Photo: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer, The Sofia Globe)