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IP/09/257

Brussels, 12 February 2009

Toward a visa-free regime between the European Community and Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius, Barbados and Seychelles

Mutual visa-free travel becomes soon a reality between the European Community and Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius, Barbados and Seychelles – The Commission approves the draft Council Decisions on the signature and conclusion of short-stay visa waiver agreements with these six countries

The Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Liberty and Security, declared: "Sometimes Europe is unfairly named "Fortress Europe". Today, I have the pleasure of announcing the launch of the procedure to ratify agreements which will facilitate travel between the EU Member States and Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius, Barbados and Seychelles. This is great news for nationals of these countries and EU citizens who will soon be able to travel   to these   countries without  requiring short stay  visas . "

The agreements provide for visa-free travel for the citizens of the European Union and for the citizens of the six countries – holders of all passports (diplomatic, service and ordinary) – between their territories for stays not exceeding three months. The agreements cover all category of travellers, except for the category of persons travelling for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity, for whom each Member State and also the six countries remain free to impose the visa requirement in accordance with the applicable Community or national law.

In order to make citizens benefit from the visa-free travel as soon as possible, the Commission also proposed the provisional application of the agreements as from their signature.

About 800.000 European citizens travel to these countries per year.

The Proposals on signature and conclusion are to be submitted to the Council for adoption. The European Parliament is consulted on the draft decisions on the conclusion of the agreements.

Background

Council Regulation (EC) 1932/2006 amended Council Regulation (EC) 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders of the European Union (negative list), and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (positive list) by - inter alia - transferring six third countries from the negative to the positive list. These are Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Seychelles. However, the Regulation made the implementation of the exemptions from the visa requirement for nationals of these countries depending on the entry into force of bilateral visa waiver agreements to be concluded between the European Community and each of the countries concerned.

The mandates for negotiation with the six countries were adopted by the Council on 5 June 2008. The formal negotiations on visa waiver Agreements were opened in July 2008 separately with each of the six countries. The negotiations were completed on 16 October 2008 and the six Agreements were initialled on 12 and 19 November 2008.


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