The European Commission said on July 13 that it would continue to “work toward” getting Canada and the United States to remove visa requirements for citizens of EU member states Bulgaria and Romania – but again hinted that it was reluctant to penalise Washington and Ottawa over the lack of visa reciprocity.
EU rules require that countries on the visa-free list for entry to the Union should reciprocate. But Canada still requires Bulgarians and Romanians to apply for visas, while the US requires visa applications from five EU member states, including Bulgaria and Romania.
Bulgaria and Romania have indicated that unless Canada lifts its visa requirements, they could veto an EU-Canada free trade deal due for signing in October.
On July 11, European Commission-brokered talks were held involving senior office-bearers from Canada, Bulgaria and Romania.
At the meeting, Canada undertook to inform in early autumn about the outcomes of the assessments and timelines for lifting the visa requirement, including on the necessary elements of cooperation with Bulgaria and Romania.
After a meeting on July 13, the European Commission said that it had adopted a communication regarding the visa reciprocity situation with Canada and the United States, evaluating the progress achieved in discussions with both countries and setting out the next steps.
The July 13 “stock-taking” followed the communication adopted by the EC on April 12 where the Commission noted that full visa waiver reciprocity with Canada and the United States “had not been achieved for citizens of some EU member states”.
Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “Achieving full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states is the objective for the European Commission and a fundamental principle of our common visa policy.
“In the past three months, we have intensified contacts with the US and Canada to push for full visa waiver reciprocity. However, despite the constructive engagement in particular of the Canadian government, citizens from some EU member states still need visas to travel to the US and Canada,” he said.
“We will continue to work towards full visa reciprocity and we will coordinate our activities with the member states concerned, the European Parliament and the Council to accelerate the delivery of results,” Avramopoulos said.
The Commission said that its assessment of the consequences of a potential suspension of the visa waiver, presented in April, “noted that this approach would have a substantial impact on the EU’s external relations with Canada and the US”.
“A suspension would very likely also lead to negative economic impacts for the EU, without bringing about full visa reciprocity.”
Therefore, the Commission had invited the European Parliament and the Council to take a position on the most appropriate way forward by July 12 2016.
However, Council had not yet expressed a position on the matter and the European Parliament had not yet adopt a position in plenary.
“In recent months, contacts with the US and Canada have been intensified, including at the highest political level, to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity. With the Communication adopted today, the Commission commits to continue to push for full visa reciprocity and will coordinate its activities with the relevant member states to accelerate the delivery of results,” the EC said.
The Commission said that it “looks forward” to the EU-Canada Summit, which will take place on October 27-28, “as the occasion to confirm tangible progress on the lifting of the visa requirement for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens”.
The Commission said that it would work closely with both the European Parliament and the Council “to ensure that the European Union speaks with one voice on this important matter and will report on the further progress made before the end of the year.”
(Photo: copyright Clive Leviev-Sawyer)