The European Commission has today 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. Today's stock-taking follows the Communication adopted on 12 April 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. 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."
The Commission's 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 invited the European Parliament and the Council to take a position on the most appropriate way forward by 12 July 2016. The Commission notes that the Council did not yet express a position on the matter and the European Parliament did 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.
In this regard, at the 11 July Ministerial meeting in Brussels, 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. The Commission looks forward to the EU-Canada Summit, which will take place on 27-28 October 2016, as the occasion to confirm tangible progress on the lifting of the visa requirement for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens.
The Commission will 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.
Today's Commission Communication also welcomes the lifting of visa requirements for Croatian citizens by Brunei on 12 April, ensuring full visa reciprocity for all EU citizens.
Not all non-EU citizens require a visa in order to travel to the Schengen area for short stay visits (not exceeding 90 days in a 180-day period). A common EU list sets out the countries whose citizens require a visa and those countries whose citizens are exempt from that requirement (Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001).
A fundamental principle of EU visa policy is to ensure that third countries on the visa-free list grant a reciprocal visa waiver to citizens of all EU Member States. To support this effort a visa reciprocity mechanism has been set up. This mechanism was amended by the European Parliament and the Council in 2013 (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.
The current mechanism has been in force for two years and the Commission, in close cooperation with the Member States concerned, has been working hard to ensure that EU citizens can travel as freely as possible to third countries.
In the framework of the reciprocity mechanism, the Commission has already adopted three reports assessing the situation: on 10 October 2014, on 22 April 2015 and on 5 November 2015 and a political Communication on 12 April 2016. In the Communication of 12 April, the Commission invited the European Parliament and the Council to take a position on the most appropriate way forward by 12 July 2016.
While the Council did not express a position on the matter and the European Parliament did not yet adopt a position in Plenary, the Chairman of the Committeeon Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament sent a letter to the Commission on 7 June requesting the Commission to adopt the delegated acts suspending the visa waivers for citizens of Canada and the US as foreseen under the reciprocity mechanism in Regulation 539/2001.
The United Kingdom and Ireland do not take part in the development of the common visa policy and would not be bound by a visa waiver suspension.
For more information
Frequently asked questions: EU visa reciprocity mechanism
Joint Statement by Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, and John McCallum, Canadian Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, following meetings in Brussels, 11 July
Communication of 12 April - State of play and way forward as regards the situation of non-reciprocity
5 November 2015 – Report from the Commission assessing the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy
22 April 2015 - Report from the Commission assessing the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy
10 October 2014 - Report from the Commission assessing the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy
MEMO – EU visa reciprocity mechanism - Questions and Answers
Council Regulation listing those countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001)
Council Regulation amending Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement(Regulation (EU) 1289/2013)