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Visa reciprocity with the US and Canada: Commission reports on recent developments

Brussels, 21 December 2016

The European Commission reported on progress towards achieving full visa reciprocity with Canada and the United States, evaluating the developments over the past five months.

Since the last report, following contacts at political and technical level, the EU and Canada have agreed a clear timeline for achieving full visa waiver reciprocity. There have, however, not been comparable indications of progress with the United States, despite sustained efforts.

Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “Guaranteeing full visa reciprocity with Canada and the U.S. remains a priority for the EU. That is why I welcome the commitment and decision of the Canadian authorities to ensure full visa reciprocity for all EU citizens by 1 December 2017. This progress proves that our diplomatic contacts and negotiations have delivered important results. Similarly, we will continue keeping this issue high on the agenda with the new U.S. administration and will continue reiterating the importance of achieving full visa reciprocity for all EU citizens with the U.S. as well.”

Today’s stock-taking follows the Communications adopted in April and July, in which 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 and announced that it would report back on further progress made in the discussions before the end of the year.

Canada

Following intensive and coordinated efforts and sustained engagement between the EU and Canada ahead of the 16th EU-Canada Summit on 30 October 2016 in Brussels, Canada provided a clear timeline for achieving full visa waiver reciprocity for all EU citizens. The Commission will continue its work to ensure that full visa waiver reciprocity – already applied to all other EU Member States – will be put in place by Canada for all Bulgarian and Romanian travellers by the end of 2017, as confirmed in the Joint Declaration of the EU-Canada Summit.

The United States

Despite the stepping up of political and technical contacts, there have not been comparable indications of progress towards the lifting of visas with the United States as those seen with Canada. The Commission will intensify its efforts without delay to push for full visa waiver reciprocity in coordination with the five Member States concerned (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania), once the new U.S. administration is in place. The next EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial and Senior Officials meeting expected to take place in the first half of 2017 will provide the next occasion to discuss with the new Administration a way forward to achieving this objective.

Next Steps

The Commission will continue to work with the European Parliament and the Council to ensure that the European Union speaks with one voice on this important matter. The Commission will report on further progress made before the end of June 2017.

Background

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.

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 two Communications in April and July 2016. In the Communication of 12 April, the Commission notably assessed in detail the consequences and impacts of a suspension of visa waiver for citizens of Canada and the US and concluded that the suspension of the visa waiver, in addition to the adverse impact on EU citizens and the difficulties in implementation, would also have significant negative impacts in a wide range of policy areas, notably on external relations, trade, tourism and the EU’s economy.

In April, the Commission had invited the European Parliament and the Council to take a position on the most appropriate way forward by 12 July 2016. The Council did not express a position on the matter.

The European Parliament debated the issue in Plenary last week. A debate also took place in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament on 12 October.

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

Communication adopted on 21 December 2016 – State of play and the possible ways forward as regards the situation of non-reciprocity with certain third countries in the area of visa policy (Follow-up to the Communication of 12 April)

Canadian press release to allow Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to travel to Canada visa-free on December 1, 2017

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)