21st Jul 2019

EU threatens Canada with visa war

  • EU justice affairs commissioner Jacques Barrot took a hard line on Canada (Photo: Council of European Union)

The EU commissioner for justice and home affairs, Jacques Barrot, has warned Canada it could face "retaliatory measures" if it does not scrap the visa obligation imposed on Czech citizens by the end of the year.

Ottawa abolished visas for Czechs in 2007, but re-introduced them in July after hundreds of Roma from the central-European country applied for asylum in Canada, citing discrimination in their home country.

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

The measure was "unacceptable, not just for the Czech Republic but for the European Union as a whole," Mr Barrot said at a press conference on Monday (21 September) after a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers.

He suggested that the EU may impose a visa obligation for Canadian diplomats as a first tit-for-tat measure.

An initial sign of good will would be for Canada to open a consulate in Prague, enabling Czech citizens to apply for a visa in their own country, instead of having to travel to Vienna as they do now, he said.

"If the Canadians don't do anything by the end of the year, then we will be required to ask member states whether it will be agreeable to have some form of retaliatory measure," Mr Barrot warned.

Initial discussions on this matter received "broad support" among member states, as a sign of solidarity with the Czech Republic, the Swedish EU presidency said.

Sweden wants to avoid a "visa war" with Ottawa, the Swedish minister for immigration, Tobias Billstrom, said at the press briefing. "That would be very unfortunate for all stakeholders."

But there are no signs from Canada that the policy may be reversed. A spokesman for the Ministry of Immigration on Monday defended the policy as a great succes.

"[The policy] is stopping bogus asylum claims, saving taxpayers money, and allowing us to redirect our resources to focus on genuine refugees," Alykhan Velshi, director of communications with the responsible ministry, told the Canwest News Service.

According to Canadian statistics, 3,000 Czech nationals made refugee claims since visas were lifted in October 2007. Fewer than five refugee claims were filed in 2006.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has criticised Canada over the move, drawing attention to attacks and discrimination against Roma people in the Czech Republic and stressing their right to claim asylum.

"Last year there was a big pogrom against Roma in the north of the Czech Republic in Janov. And the whole incident has still not completely been resolved and there are no conclusions yet," Dasa van der Horst, the head of the Amnesty International branch in Prague, told Czech Radio.

She spoke about "state-imposed barriers" and evidence that Roma children are automatically sent to special schools, which only re-inforces the discrimination circle.

"This is not the problem of the Canadian government, but Canada has a system which works for all countries. And it is very strange to put repressive and actually preventative methods in place and not allow our citizens in but allow other countries citizens in," Ms van der Horst said.

EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

EU states ought to undergo a yearly "Rule of Law Review Cycle" to help stop countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Romania from backsliding on EU norms, the European Commission has said.

EU defends US data pact, as Facebook court case opens

An Austrian privacy campaigner vs Facebook over the future of data transfers to the US case opened at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday. The European Commission, meanwhile, says the Privacy Shield pact is working fine.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. Abortion Wars
  2. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  3. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  4. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  5. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  6. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  7. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  8. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us