Friday

20th Sep 2019

EU to scrap visas for sunny island states

  • Tuvalu islands - among those to get visa-free travel to EU (Photo: Stefan Lins)

The European Commission wants to grant visa-free travel to 16 island nations as part of a larger effort to boost tourism in Europe.

The proposal would entitle Island nation citizens with a valid passport to stay in Europe for up to 90 days.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We need to attract legitimate travels to the EU while of course securing our borders," EU justice commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (7 November).

The islands include five from the Caribbean - Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago - and 11 from the Pacific: Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and Timor Leste.

Malmstrom said 21 percent of tourists avoid going to Europe due to overly complex visa procedures. Her office later told this website the figure was taken from a 2010 market report by the London-based European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), a group that aims to influence European tourism legislation.

Meanwhile, consulates in some member states are not respecting the 15-day deadline for visa applications or providing documents in the relevant languages.

"You have to give a response within 15 days and not take two months to give a visa," said commission vice president Antonio Tajani.

The delays and complications are costing the EU tourist industry billions of euros as well as potential new jobs, says the commission. Some 12.6 million visas for Schengen - the EU's passport-free travel zone - were issued in 2011.

Tajani is hoping to attract more people with disposable cash from China, Russia and South America.

Russians lodged over 5 million Schengen visa applications in 2011 compared to just over 1 million from China.

Any security concerns over allowing in potential terrorists is unfounded, said the commissioner. "Visas won't stop a terrorist," said Tajani.

'Smart borders'

The commission pointed out that its "smart borders" package would help control who enters and exits the EU. The proposals, first introduced in 2008, includes automated ID checks, border gates, increased pre-screening measures, new databases and an entry-exit system (EES).

"We are in the process of finalising the proposition for an entry-exit [system] which will most likely be done in December," said Malmstrom.

The system would automatically identify people who enter the EU on a visa and notify authorities of those who overstay.

The EES has drawn criticism from pro-transparency groups, such as London-based NGO Statewatch, who are concerned about privacy rights and police abuse.

Eleven member states are already implementing their own EES systems and "seem to provide law enforcement authorities with routine access," according to a study published over the summer by the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Germany.

Malmstrom said a balance needs to be found between security and increasing the number of tourists.

Last year alone some €330 billion of tourist money was pumped into the EU economy.

Tajani estimated this could increase to €427 billion by 2022 if member states respected current visa code guidelines.

The commission's visa proposal for the island nations still needs approval from the European Parliament and member states.

Currently, 42 countries are not required to apply for visas to enter the EU. But some of its closest neighbours - Russia, Turkey and Ukraine - need permits.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

Just 5% of Europeans trust Trump

European voters believe that EU's foreign policies should be more coherent and effective in order to remain neutral in potential international conflicts, since most EU citizens no longer rely on the US security guarantee, according to a new report.

News in Brief

  1. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  2. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  3. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  4. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  5. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  6. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  7. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  8. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  2. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  3. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  4. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  5. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  6. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  7. A new Commission for the one percent
  8. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us