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Brussels, 27 April 2014
Commissioner Malmström on visa-free travel for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova
Following the European Commission's proposal, tomorrow the decision to transfer the Republic of Moldova to the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirement comes into effect. This means that, as from tomorrow, the visa obligation for citizens of the Republic of Moldova who hold a biometric passport and want to travel to the Schengen zone for a short-stay is abolished.
Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström said: "I am extremely pleased that visa free travel has become a reality for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova with a biometric passport, who want to travel to the Schengen zone for short-stays. We launched the Visa Dialogue with Chisinau in June 2010, and less than four years later travelling to the Schengen zone without a visa has become a reality for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. This decision will further facilitate people-to-people contacts and strengthen business, social and cultural ties between the European Union and Moldova. It also shows how efficient our relationship can be, and that closer relations with the European Union do bring tangible benefits to all. I have to pay tribute to the continuous efforts by the Moldovan authorities that demonstrate that with determination and hard work the necessary changes can be made that allow the EU to abolish the visa obligation".
Background: from visa facilitations to visa-free regime for the Republic of Moldova
As a first step towards the long term goal of visa-free travel, citizens of the Republic of Moldova already enjoyed the benefits of a Visa Facilitation Agreement with the EU since 1 January 2008 (an upgraded Visa Facilitation Agreement entered into force on 1 July 2013).
The visa facilitation agreement set a lower visa fee (€35 instead of €60) for all Moldovan visa applicants, and waived fees for broad categories of citizens such as children, pensioners, students, people visiting family members living in the EU, people in need of medical treatment, economic operators working with EU companies, participants in cultural exchanges, journalists, etc. The visa facilitation agreement also simplified and accelerated procedures and provided for easier access to multiple-entry visas with longer term of validity.
The Republic of Moldova lifted the visa obligation for EU citizens on 1 January 2007.
The EU-Republic of Moldova Visa Liberalisation Dialogue was launched on 15 June 2010 and the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) was presented to the Moldovan authorities in January 2011 (IP/11/59).
In its latest report on the implementation of the VLAP, the Commission considered that the Republic of Moldova met all the benchmarks needed (IP/13/1085).
In particular, the Republic of Moldova has successfully conducted the reform of the Ministry of Interior, modernised its Border Police, continued its smooth judicial cooperation in criminal matters with EU Member States and international police cooperation, and put in place a solid framework to deepen the cooperation with Ukraine in the area of border management. The authorities of the Republic of Moldova have made serious implementation efforts with regard to the Law on Ensuring Equality and the National Human Rights Action Plan, and to strengthen the Ombudsman's office.
Building on this assessment, the Commission proposed to abolish visa requirements for citizens of the Republic of Moldova holding a biometric passport (by transferring the country to the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirements - IP/13/1170).
On 27 February 2014 the European Parliament approved this proposal (STATEMENT/14/20) and on 14 March the Council of the EU adopted the revised Regulation. On the 3 April the European Parliament's President Martin Schulz and the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas signed the amendment of Regulation 539/2001, allowing for the transfer of the Republic of Moldova to the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirement, the final formal step in the procedure.
The Schengen area visa waiver for short stays will apply to citizens of the Republic of Moldova holding a biometric passport as of tomorrow, 28 April. The upgraded Visa Facilitation Agreement will continue to apply to the holders of non-biometric travel documents.
The number of short-stay Schengen visa applications from citizens of the Republic of Moldova has remained stable over the past four years (oscillating between 50,000 and 55,000). At the same time, the refusal rate for visa applications has sharply decreased from 11,4% in 2010 to 4,8% in 2013.