Friday

24th Nov 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

Mali blames West for chaos in Libya

Mali's foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop told the EU in Brussels that the lack of vision and planning following the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya helped trigger the current migration and security crisis.

Opinion

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. EU awaits UK proposals in final push for Brexit breakthrough
  2. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  3. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  4. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks
  5. LuxLeaks trial re-opens debate on whistleblowers' protection
  6. Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit
  7. EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit
  8. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya