Reciprocity regarding visa exemptions
Report from the Commission to the Council on visa waiver reciprocity with certain third countries in accordance with Article 2 of Council Regulation (EC) No 851/2005 of 2 June 2005 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement as regards the reciprocity mechanism [COM(2006) 3 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission reports the results of the new reciprocity mechanism, distinguishing between three categories of non-EU countries.
It considers that dialogue with the non-EU countries has already proved effective in the case of five countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Brazil. In the case of four other countries (Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore and Uruguay) the solution to non-reciprocity problems is in sight. In the case of Australia, Canada and the United States, the non-reciprocity problem is far from being solved.
The Commission does not consider that there is any immediate prospect of having the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) system applied to the citizens of all Member States. This means that the nationals of some EU countries cannot submit their visa applications electronically and will have to go on submitting applications to a diplomatic mission.
Australia has, however, introduced some measures to facilitate the visa issue procedure for the nationals of these countries. The Commission considers this a positive step, but only as a transitional measure, as the primary objective is still for all the Member States to participate in the ETA system.
United States of America
The US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows the nationals of 27 participating countries to enter the US as temporary visitors for business or tourism without first obtaining a visa from a US consulate abroad.
The Commission reports that according to US officials, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 Congress has shown no enthusiasm for softening the VWP eligibility criteria. The US authorities have nevertheless publicly recognised the desirability of Greece and the new Member States participating in the Visa Waiver Programme. With this in mind, in February 2005 a roadmap was established for those Member States which do not currently participate in the VWP in order to focus and guide joint efforts toward the goal of potential future participation in the programme.
The Commission recognises the US commitment at the highest political level to the VWP roadmap process. However, it regrets that the US has so far shown no willingness to consider interim facilitation measures such as exemption from visa fees.
The Commission notes that the approach of the Canadian authorities concerning visa exemption for EU Member States is similar to that of the US. Canada evaluates visa exemption for each country individually on the basis of an objective assessment of the risks associated with the movement of a country's citizens.
The Commission observes that Canada has engaged in dialogue with a view to carrying out another comprehensive visa review for these countries in 2007 and establishing mutual visa-free travel, but without real progress so far. The Commission believes that this dialogue should continue, but become more result-oriented.
The Commission notes that the situation regarding reciprocity has improved and believes this to be the fruit of the diplomatic efforts of the Commission and the Member States since 1 May 2004, and evidence of the effectiveness of the new reciprocity mechanism.
At this stage the Commission does not consider that the situation calls for a proposal for measures to accompany this report.
Regulation (EC) No 851/2005 of 2 June 2005 aims to establish reciprocity with non-EU countries which continue to impose a visa requirement on the nationals of some EU Member States for stays of under 90 days although those Member States do not impose the visa requirement on nationals of those non-EU countries.
On the basis of this mechanism, Member States notified all cases of non-reciprocity. The Commission then began taking the necessary steps with the authorities in the non-EU countries not applying reciprocity with a view to restoring visa-free travel.
This report records the progress of negotiations with those countries.
Second Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on cases where visa waiver non-reciprocity is maintained by certain third countries in accordance with Article 1(5) of Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement, as amended by Regulation (EC) No 851/2005 as regards the reciprocity mechanism [COM(2006) 568 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission notes that there is full reciprocity with some countries such as Uruguay and Costa Rica. However, there is no such reciprocity with Australia, Canada or the United States. Progress is being made with Australia, Canada and Brunei, but not with the United States.
Third report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on certain third countries' maintenance of visa requirements in breach of the principle of reciprocity in accordance with Article 1(5) of Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement, as amended by Regulation (EC) No 851/2005 as regards the reciprocity mechanism [COM(2007) 533 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission notes that progress has continued on visa reciprocity, notably between the European Union and third countries. In particular, there is now full reciprocity between Mexico and New Zealand on the one hand and Romania and Bulgaria on the other.
- The Commission notes significant progress with Australia and hopes to see identical treatment of nationals of all EU Member States from mid-2008.
- The Commission is pleased to note progress with Canada on the transparency of the procedure for granting visas to nationals of the different Member States, but also notes continuing unequal treatment. If this situation persists, it may propose appropriate measures in respect of Canada.
- The Commission notes that the United States have adopted a new law amending the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) and introducing a new system, the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). The Commission will carefully examine the conditions and timetable for the application of the new law. There is still a difference in the way nationals of different Member States are treated, and the Commission reserves the right to adopt retaliatory measures if there is no progress towards total visa reciprocity within a reasonable time.
A new report will be submitted by 30 June 2008.