In line with the EU’s principle to demand visas from countries that have similar requirements in place for one or more EU Member States, the European Commission is considering imposing travel visa on American and Canadian nationals. According to the regulation that entered into force before Christmas last year, EU countries are required to “react in common” on visa matters, especially in cases where foreign countries “subjects [EU] citizens to differing treatment”.
Currently, most EU citizens enjoy a visa-free travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. However, citizens of Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland are not eligible for this scheme. Canada’s visa system is not based on reciprocity and the country’s immigration service commented that, for example, Romania and Bulgaria do not meet Canada’s criteria for a visa travel on the grounds of migration issues, security of travel documents, border management and even human rights. The EU executive must decide by tomorrow (12 April) whether to demand visas or not, a move that could raise tensions across the Atlantic at the time when Brussels and Washington negotiate a free trade agreement.
Critics also point out that it is questionable whether such a move would be practical given Europe’s popularity as a tourist destination for many Americans and Canadians. “An EU source commented that “a political debate and decision is obviously needed on such an important issue, but there is a real risk that the EU would move towards visas for the two (Americans and Canadians)”. Washington, however, highlighted that any proposal by the EU Commission to introduce travel visa could be rejected by the European Parliament or the European Council. Yet, it is the European Parliament itself that insists on reciprocity in visa policy.