Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Seals and visas threaten EU-Canada rift

  • A save the seals campaign in Strasbourg, the seat of the EU parliament, in May (Photo: EUobserver)

Canada's decision to impose visas on Czech citizens and the EU's decision to ban seal products are emerging as major irritants in bilateral relations.

Both issues came up at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (27 July), the first high level event under the Swedish EU presidency.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Czech Republic used the opportunity to complain against Ottawa's unilateral re-imposition of visa requirements due to a surge in Czech asylum applications. The move, in mid-July, comes after two years of visa-free travel.

"For us, this is not an issue between the Czech Republic and Canada but between the EU and Canada," Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt commented after the EU meeting.

Mr Bildt called the Canadian decision "sad" and said it has caused "deep concern" in the bloc.

But he ruled out any EU reaction before the European Commission in September puts forward a legal analysis of the situation.

The commission will assess Prague's call on fellow member states to show "reciprocity" - or in other words, to re-introduce visas against Canada. EU states will then have a further three months to consider their reaction.

"As the presidency of the EU, we are in favour of this reciprocity," Sweden's migration minister Tobias Billstroem told AFP, despite the Canadian opinion that such a counter-reaction is out of the question.

Germany, France and the UK could face harsh consequences in terms of trade if they retaliate on the Czech Republic's side.

Canada says 1,720 mostly Roma-origin Czech citizens applied for asylum in the first six months of 2009 compared to half that figure in the whole of 2008. The Czech Roma have complained of discrimination in their home country.

"We need to streamline the system to provide faster protection for real victims of persecution, while showing bogus claimants the door much more quickly," Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney said on Monday.

"Until we're able to come up with reforms along those lines, unfortunately, the visa policy becomes our only recourse."

Seal angst

In another matter set to annoy in Canada, EU ministers on Monday rubber stamped a ban on EU seal product imports "in response to concerns about the animal welfare aspects of seal hunting practices."

Canada - which culls about 300,000 seals off its east coast each year – has said the EU's decision is unscientific and plans to challenge the move at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva.

"We are very disappointed with this ruling. We believe strongly this violates the World Trade Organisation guidelines," Canada's international trade minister Stockwell Day said, according to the BBC. "It is in our view inappropriate that a trade decision is taken which is not based on science."

The ban is due to affect the 2010 hunting season and halt annual trade worth a symbolic €4.2 million, according to media reports.

Czechs want EU response after Canada imposes visas

The Czech government has called for EU solidarity after Canada decided to stop its visa-free regime with Prague due to an increasing number of Czech Roma applicants for asylum in Canada.

Spain's Sanchez in storm over judicial appointments bill

Spain's socialist-led coalition has proposed changing how members of the country's top judicial body, the General Council of the Judiciary, are appointed - triggering a political and judicial storm about the independence, and drawing 'double standards' complaints from Poland.

Corruption failures also highlighted in rule of law report

The European Commission's first report on the rule of law has raised concerns over the lack of effective anti-corruption efforts in some members sates - while it considers Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands have good governance measures.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

Corruption failures also highlighted in rule of law report

The European Commission's first report on the rule of law has raised concerns over the lack of effective anti-corruption efforts in some members sates - while it considers Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands have good governance measures.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us