Monday

5th Dec 2022

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.

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

"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.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Socialists opposed parliament taking Qatar rights stand

The socialists in the European Parliament are leading compromise talks on human rights in Qatar despite voting against putting the issue to a plenary vote. The move comes after the Left demanded that the European Parliament take a stand.

No top EU officials going to Qatar World Cup

None of the four top EU officials are going to the Qatar World Cup amid a stink on human rights, but some are more brave than others in criticising the gas-rich emirate.

Opinion

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Bad Karma
  2. Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia
  3. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  4. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  5. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  6. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  7. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  8. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us