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Brussels, 10 October 2014
The European Commission assesses the situation of visa non-reciprocity with certain third countries
The European Commission adopted today a report assessing the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy. Visa non-reciprocity refers to instances where citizens of a non-EU country enjoy visa-free travel to the EU, yet this country requires EU citizens of certain Member States to obtain visas for travel to its territory.
This is the first report since the entry into force of the revised visa reciprocity mechanism in January 2014. A new approach has been put in place with a view to achieving full visa reciprocity with all third countries that are exempt from the visa requirement by the EU. The Commission does not consider appropriate at this stage to re-impose a visa requirement for certain categories of nationals of countries that still impose it on EU citizens.
"Intensive and constructive work has taken place over the last months with Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States. All these countries have shown their positive engagement and have confirmed that they share the objective of reaching full visa reciprocity. I trust this new approach, where the third country, the Member States concerned and the Commission come together to discuss the issue, will prove effective in bringing more visa-free travel for EU citizens. We remain committed to achieve full visa-reciprocity and the European Commission will use this new mechanism to make sure that no third country drags its feet when it comes to make progress in increasing mobility for European citizens", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
In early 2014 the Commission received notifications from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania about their citizens being required to apply for visas when travelling to the following countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Japan, and the United States of America.
To discuss the state of play and the steps needed to achieve full visa reciprocity as soon as possible, the Commission established a new, more dynamic and results-oriented approach: a framework of regular tripartite meetings between the third country, the Member State(s) concerned and the Commission. All third countries concerned have agreed with this approach.
The first meetings have demonstrated that there is a need for further clarifications and information regarding the national criteria and procedures applied by the third countries concerned for granting the visa waiver and the fulfilment of these criteria by the Member States. These exchanges will be actively pursued and the situation assessed every 6 months, in accordance with the provisions of the revised mechanism.
Taking into account the confirmation by the third countries of the shared objective of mutual visa free travel, the positive engagement in the tripartite approach and the fact that none of the Member States concerned has requested the Commission to suspend the exemption from the visa requirement for certain categories of nationals of the third country concerned, the Commission considers that, at this stage, it would not be appropriate to adopt such suspension measures.
Not all third countries' nationals must have a visa in order to travel to the Schengen area for a short stay. The EU has a common list of countries whose citizens must have a visa ("the negative list") and of countries whose citizens are exempt from that requirement ("the positive list") (see Council Regulation (EC) 539/2001).
It is therefore logical that, in the spirit of solidarity, the EU also seeks that third countries on the "positive list" grant a visa waiver to citizens of all EU Member States. For this reason, a visa reciprocity mechanism has been set up. This mechanism was recently amended (Regulation (EU) 1289/2013) with a view to make it more efficient and to ensure more solidarity in the implementation of the common visa policy.
In accordance with the provisions of the amending Regulation, Member States have to send their notifications of the non-reciprocity situations to the Commission. The Commission then publishes information about these notifications in the Official Journal of the EU without delay1.
There is no automaticity at this stage between notifications and possible initiatives for reintroduction of a visa requirement for certain categories of third country nationals. According to the new Regulation, it is up to the European Commission to take such a decision or not: every six months following the publication of the notification and during a period of maximum two years, the Commission may either adopt a measure temporarily suspending the visa waiver for certain categories of citizens of the third country concerned or report why it did not propose such a measure.
If the third country has not lifted the visa requirement within 24 months of the publication date, the automatic introduction of the visa requirement for all citizens of the third country concerned will enter into play, provided that neither the European Parliament nor the Council opposes such a measure.
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The Commission published the Member States' notifications in the Official Journal on 12 April 2014: Bulgaria notified non-reciprocity cases with the US, Australia and Canada; Croatia with the US and Brunei Darussalam; Cyprus with the US and Australia; Poland with the US, and Romania with Australia, Canada, Japan and the US.