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23rd Mar 2019

EU Commission clashes with Parliament on US visas

  • Morales has asked EU officials to explain their approach to the committee (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Parliament has said the European Commission is not doing its legal duty on Canadian and US visas, but member states are willing to give it more time.

Claude Moraes, the British centre-left MEP who chairs the civil liberties committee, told EUobserver on Wednesday (13 July): “It's the committee’s view that the commission is legally obliged to adopt a delegated act which would temporarily suspend visa reciprocity with Canada and the United States.”

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“We reiterate our call on the commission to carry out this legal obligation”, he added.

“We have invited the commission to the committee to discuss this matter and further action”.

Moraes was referring to the fact that all Canadian and US nationals can enter the EU’s Schengen travel zone without a visa, but Canada requires Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to obtain a permit, while the US requires visas for people from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.

Under the EU’s own laws, the commission was supposed to suspend the Canadian and US waivers already in April due to their lack of reciprocity.

Instead, it asked parliament and EU states to “take a position” on the issue by 12 July, while warning of the political and economic costs of a visa war.

The parliament and member states refused to cooperate, saying there was no legal basis for such an informal consultation.

On Wednesday, the commission promised to “push” Canada and the US for reciprocity and to “report on the further progress made before the end of the year”.

It said it would try to get “tangible progress” on Canada in time for an EU-Canada summit on 27 October.

On Monday, it also convened talks between Canada’s immigration minister and two deputy ministers from Bulgaria and Romania to help move things along.

It promised to raise the issue with US secretary of state John Kerry at a meeting in Brussels on 18 July and at a meeting with US homeland security chiefs foreseen to take place by the end of the year.

Foreshadowing Moraes’ criticism, the commission statement also said it is important “the European Union speaks with one voice on this important matter”.

“With good will and good faith we can solve this problem soon”, migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told press the same day, adding that Canada and the US are Europe’s “important strategic partners”.

Member states had earlier also criticised the commission’s decision not to throw the book at Canada and the US.

But according to the Slovak EU presidency, which is coordinating their positions, their approach has mellowed.

“The presidency welcomes the commission's communication, as we support efforts to reach full visa waiver reciprocity through dialogue”, a Slovak spokeswoman told this website on Wednesday.

Bulgaria, which, along with Romania, has threatened to veto an EU-Canada free trade agreement unless Canada backed down, indicated that it wanted to see faster progress than the commission’s new year-end deadline, however.

“If we have an adequate Canadian proposal in early autumn (before the EU-Canada summit) everything will be fine”, a Bulgarian diplomat said.

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