Brussels, 29 October 2014
Colombia and Peru fulfil the criteria for visa-free access to the Schengen area
Today the Commission adopted two reports concluding that Colombia and Peru fulfil the relevant criteria, with a view to the negotiation of visa waiver agreements between each of these countries and the EU.
"The significant improvements accomplished by Colombia and Peru in many areas in recent years mean that it is no longer justified to maintain a visa obligation on citizens of these countries visiting the Schengen area for short stays. By abolishing the visa obligation we will be fostering mobility and people-to-people contacts – something that is fundamental to reinforce the social and economic development and mutual understanding between the EU and other countries", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
After assessing the relevant criteria, including among others security risks and risks of irregular immigration, economic benefits for the EU and human rights considerations, the Commission has concluded that the necessary conditions are met for the start of visa waiver negotiations between the EU and Colombia and Peru.
The main conclusions of the reports are the following: trust in visa applicants of both countries is on the rise, with low visa refusal rates; irregular migration is at relatively low levels; security of travel documents is sufficient; security threats have receded; organised crime groups are currently not assessed as a significant threat to the EU (with the exception of drug trafficking); economic opportunities, including enlarged trade and touristic flows, are expanding in parallel with significant growth of the Colombian and Peruvian economies; human rights and fundamental freedoms are now much better protected and respected in these countries than in the past; visa reciprocity will be ensured as these countries already exempt all EU citizens from the visa obligation; and the visa-free regime will further strengthen the relationship between the EU and the two countries, especially since the (provisional) application of free trade agreements in 2013.
The general positive assessments do not ignore that there exist certain risks, including possible increases in the use of drug couriers and in trafficked people as well as in the number of Colombians and Peruvians who enter the EU legally and who would overstay, thus becoming irregular migrants. These risks are nevertheless considered to be manageable, in particular through a correct implementation of border checks, with reinforced means if necessary, at the airports through which most Colombians and Peruvians reach the Schengen area’s external borders.
Once the reports have been discussed in the appropriate committees and groups of the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission will seek authorisation from the Council to negotiate short-stay visa waiver agreements with each of the two countries. If the Council grants such an authorisation, negotiations could start in the first trimester of 2015. Only after the agreements enter into force will visa-free for the citizens of these countries become a reality. This could happen, at the very earliest, in the second half of 2015.
European Parliament and Council Regulation No 509/20141 amended Council Regulation No 539/20012 and in particular its annexes containing the lists of countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement. 19 countries were transferred from Annex I (visa obligation) to Annex II (visa exemption): Colombia, Dominica, Grenada, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Peru, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, the United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu. For nationals of these 19 countries, the exemption from the visa requirement will only apply from the date of entry into force of an agreement on visa exemption to be concluded by each of these countries with the European Union.
For Peru and Colombia, an additional step was required before opening negotiations on bilateral visa waiver agreements: a Commission assessment of the two countries with regard to the criteria set out in Article 1(1) of Regulation 509/2014: “illegal immigration, public policy and security, economic benefit, in particular in terms of tourism and foreign trade, and the Union’s external relations with the relevant third countries, including in particular, considerations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the implications of regional coherence and reciprocity”.
Both reports adopted today are accompanied by Commission staff working documents presenting detailed data that underpin their conclusions and containing information about the data sources and methodology used to produce the assessment. In view of the preparation of the assessment, the Commission requested and received contributions from three EU agencies: EASO, Europol and Frontex. Furthermore, additional information was obtained from the EU Delegations in Bogotá and Lima, as well as from the Colombian and Peruvian authorities.
Report on Colombia
Report on Peru
Cecilia Malmström's website
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DG Home Affairs website
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OJ L 149, 20.05.2014, p. 67
OJ L 81, 21.03.2001, p. 1