18th Jul 2019

Top MEP: EU 'must ensure visa waivers can be halted'

  • Manfred Weber suggested the EU make sure its ability to suspend visa-free travel is intact (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU should re-examine the emergency mechanism to suspend visa liberalisation for countries that fail to fulfil their obligations, the German leader of the conservative group in the European Parliament has suggested on Thursday (28 April).

“We have an emergency mechanism in place in Europe, if certain states persistently do not fulfil their obligations, then we are entitled to suspend visa waivers for those countries,” Manfred Weber, leader of the largest parliamentary group, the European People’s Party (EPP) said during a debate on the EU-Turkey deal in parliament.

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 look at [the emergency mechanism] again, to see if it works quickly enough.

“That is a very important point in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement, and we have to make the people understand that it is possible in Europe.”

His comments came as it emerged that a Franco-German document suggests that EU governments should revamp the mechanism to allow the EU to quickly suspend or scrap visa waivers, if needed.

The current safeguard mechanism, which was included in 2013 in the EU visa regulation and has never been used, allows a visa agreement to be suspended "as a last resort" and for a limited period of time if there is a big increase in violations of visa conditions.

Those breaches could include people overstaying their visas in the EU, or a surge in asylum requests by citizens of the non-EU country concerned.

France and Germany have circulated proposals to ease the process for triggering a suspension of six months and allowing the EU to scrap visa-free travel if a country fails to fix persistent problems, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A EU source told EUobserver that several member states supported the Franco-German proposal.

"The ball is now in the commission's court to come up with a concrete proposal," the source said.

Visa liberalisation for Turkey has become a key issue under its deal with the EU aimed at stopping the flow of migrants into Europe.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly threatened to scrap the deal if EU countries fail to lift visa requirements by the end of June.

The EU commission has suggested it could propose visa-free travel for Turks as early as next week if Ankara has met all 72 requirements stipulated in the agreement.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans reiterated on Thursday that the EU executive would not water down those benchmarks for Turkey.

“The onus is on Turkey, they have to comply with the 72 benchmarks,” he told MEPs, adding: “We won’t play around with those benchmarks.”

As part of the EU-Turkey deal, EU member states have agreed to lift the visa requirements by the end of June if the benchmarks are met. That put in an awkward position several member states, including Germany and France, that have in the past been wary of granting visa-free travel for 75 million Turks.

The EU is also set to lift visa requirements for Ukraine and Georgia, meaning a total of roughly 120 million more people could be allowed to travel to the EU without a visa in the coming months.

Fearing the visa liberalisations could trigger increased illegal migration into Europe and prompt backlash from populist parties and voters, EU governments are looking for safeguards to exit the deals if necessary.

Turkey edges closer to EU visa-free travel

The EU commission suggested it could propose visa-free travel for Turkish citizens on 4 May, if all requirements are met. Member states pledged to accelerate the procedure, but reservations remain.

Turkish PM issues EU visa ultimatum

Turkey wants guarantees visas will be lifted on its nationals in the passport-free Schengen zone by June or it won't stick to its side of the agreement in the EU-Turkey migration deal.

EU says Turkey almost ready for visa-free access

First visa-free Turkish visitors to EU possible on 1 July if Turkey meets five more criteria on time. Most Turkish people to face long wait for EU-compliant biometric passports.

EU court: Denmark's family-reunification law 'unjustified'

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has delivered a blow to Denmark's strict family-reunification laws. The ruling will likely cause headaches for its new left-leaning government given its stance on immigration, and opens up 8,000 pending cases.

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

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. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us