The number of non-reciprocity cases has been vastly reduced in the last two-and-a-half years. Most recently, full visa reciprocity was achieved with Canada after it lifted visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens as of 1 December 2017. With similar results already achieved with Australia, Brunei and Japan, this leaves the United States as the only non-EU country in the EU's visa-free list which does not grant visa-free access to citizens of all EU Member States.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "The achievement of full visa reciprocity with Canada proves that our diplomatic efforts and continued engagement are bearing fruit. Together with the five concerned Member States, we will continue on this same path with the United States as well and we are determined to do everything in our power to achieve visa free travel for all EU citizens. Progress is needed immediately and we expect our US partners to work closely with us to spur progress."
Full visa reciprocity achieved with Canada
As of 1 December 2017, full reciprocity has been achieved with Canada after visa requirements were lifted for all Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. Canada's decision comes after intensive diplomatic efforts and continued engagement at political and technical levels between the EU, Canada and the two Member States concerned. Canada had already partially lifted visa requirements for some Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in May 2017 and committed to fully lifting requirements as of 1 December 2017.
Continued engagement with the United States
Over the last seven months, contacts with the U.S. at political and technical level have intensified. The Commission is leading a result-oriented process to bring the five EU Member States concerned (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania) into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The Comission is not considering the adoption of a delegated act temporarily suspending the visa waiver for U.S. citizens for the moment because it would be counterproductive, but this position can be reviewed in light of future developments.
In June, Commissioner Avramopoulos and Elaine C. Duke, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued a Joint Statement in which both sides committed to stepping up efforts towards achieving full visa reciprocity between the EU and U.S. During the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial meeting on 17 November, both parties noted progress made in cooperative discussions and committed to continuing their engagement. In September, technical talks took place between the European Commission, the United States and the five Member States concerned to review the state of play on the remaining Visa Waiver Program requirements. In the coming months, starting from the EU-U.S. Senior Officials meeting in February, the Commission, in close cooperation with the five concerned Members States, will continue this engagement with the U.S. at all levels. This should lead to intensified and concrete action on all sides.
Reciprocity mechanism bearing fruit
Today's report also takes stock of the effectiveness of the visa reciprocity mechanism overall, an assessment which the Commission was due to submit to the European Parliament by 10 January 2018. The number of non-reciprocity cases has been considerably reduced in the last two and a half years, leaving the U.S. as the only third country in the EU's visa-free list which does not grant visa-free access to the citizens of all Member States. The visa reciprocity mechanism has thus proven to be an effective tool contributing to making progress in achieving full visa reciprocity with third countries for all EU citizens. The Commission is therefore not, at this point in time, considering a legislative proposal for the revision of the mechanism. The Commission will instead continue to pursue its diplomatic approach to achieve full visa reciprocity for all Member States.
The Commission remains committed to working closely with the European Parliament and the Council on the way forward. The Commission will continue to engage with the U.S. and the Member States concerned to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity. The Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials' Meeting on 27-28 February 2018 and the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting in May 2018 will provide occasions to further accelerate progress. The Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on further developments at the latest by autumn 2018.
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 objective, a visa reciprocity mechanism was set up.
In the framework of the reciprocity mechanism, which requires that the Commission takes into account the consequences of the suspension of the visa waiver for the external relations of the EU and its Member States, the Commission has already adopted three reports assessing the situation: on 10 October 2014, on 22 April 2015 and on 5 November 2015, as well as five Communications in April, July and December 2016, May 2017 and December 2017.
According to Article 1b of the Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001, by 10 January 2018, the Commission should submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council assessing the effectiveness of the reciprocity mechanism and, if necessary, submit a legislative proposal amending the Regulation.
For More Information
Frequently asked questions: EU visa reciprocity mechanism
Communication adopted on 20 December 2017
Communication adopted on 2 May 2017
Communication adopted on 21 December 2016
Communication adopted on 13 July 2016
Communication adopted on 12 April 2016
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
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)
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)