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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Cecilia Malmström

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

New EU visa rules: fostering economic growth and jobs through enhanced mobility

Press Conference

Brussels, 1 April 2014

First of all let me thank Vice-President Antonio Tajani for his excellent cooperation which has allowed us to design, present and adopt this package of new measures that will seriously improve the EU's common visa policy.

It is high-time this happens. Let me start with some figures to illustrate why:

Last year over 17 million people from third countries around the world submitted visa applications to enter the Schengen area.

This is certainly a striking figure, but what is even more striking are the estimations that at least 6.6 million potential travellers did not enter the Schengen area in that same year due to lengthy and costly procedures under the current visa regime.

These figures are a reason to act. Every year too many potential tourists are discouraged from visiting Europe. This is not only a problem for those wanting to come but it also implies a serious loss for the European economy. We do not reap the profits and benefits they could bring.

According to the same estimations, facilitating the visa application process could lead to an increase in trips to the Schengen area, with up to 60%.

Over five years, this could mean as much as €130 billion in total direct spending on accommodation, transport services, entertainment and shopping.

Moreover, it could translate into some 1.3 million additional jobs in tourism and other related sectors.

So, in order to fully reap these benefits Europe needs a smarter common visa policy.

We can boost economic growth and job creation by adding an economic dimension to our visa policy, while continuing to ensure a high level of security at our borders.

That is why today the European Commission has adopted proposals to seriously alter our policies. The first proposal deals with amending the Visa Code and a second proposal suggests the creation of a new kind of visa, the so-called ''Touring visa''.

The changes to the Visa Code aim to overcome the main obstacles visa applicants experience in the existing system.

These obstacles include long waiting times for an appointment with consular offices or for the issuance of the visa.

Applicants often have problems with preparing and submitting a complex series of supporting documents.

We therefore propose to seriously shorten the application time. With today's proposals, decisions on Schengen visa applications should in principle take no longer than ten calendar days, down from 15.

Furthermore we propose to simplify the rules for which supporting documents are needed and to make the process similar, no matter where the application is launched.

We propose the possibility to launch applications 'on line' and we propose to abolish the visa fee for minors under the age of 18.

Another deterrent for many potential visitors to Europe is insufficient presence of EU consulates in certain regions.

This too often forces people to travel far to present their visa request and this discourages many of them.

Our proposals will make it easier for applicants to know where to lodge the application and it will ensure that they can, in principle, always lodge the application in their country of residence.

The current cumbersome and long procedures do not distinguish between first time applicants and those who have already obtained a visa. But that does not make sense.

If someone has been checked and is a legitimate traveller, there is no need to check him or her over and over again. That is highly frustrating for frequent and regular travellers.

The Commission therefore proposes that people who regularly travel to Europe should be granted a multi-entry visa valid for several years. In practice our proposals mean that someone who has been issued two visas in the 12 months, he will get a multi-entry visa valid for 3 years. This will seriously facilitate the life of regular travellers.

Today we also present a completely new type of visa: the Touring visa. When issued a Touring visa, the holder will be allowed to tour across the Schengen area for up to one year, with the possibility to extend this period by another year.

This will a real advantage, notably for tourists who wish to stay longer in Europe, but not set up residence in one country. It will also allow for instance live performing artists to organise longer tours and third country students that finish their studies will be able to travel around and explore other parts of Europe.

Also many people who travel to Europe for business, especially in the cultural sector, will benefit from the new Touring visa.

The proposals we present today are a real turning point in how Europe wants to use its visa policy to encourage mobility. Besides fostering economic growth and jobs, it will also enhance opportunities for contacts between people and cultures.

It will adapt the visa procedures more to the needs of legitimate travellers while making the visa procedures more efficient, considerably reducing the processing time and administrative costs for member states.

Now, it is up to the European Parliament and the EU Member States to discuss these proposals, and hopefully turn them into law as soon as possible. There is no time to lose.

I would now like to give the floor to Antonio for his presentation.

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