Visa reciprocity: Political and diplomatic efforts continue to yield results

The European Commission reported on progress made towards achieving full visa reciprocity with Canada and the United States, evaluating the developments over the past seven months, and also providing the Commission's assessment on the effectiveness of the reciprocity mechanism.

The number of non-reciprocity cases has been vastly reduced in the last two-and-a-half years. Most recently, full visa reciprocity was achieved with Canada after it lifted visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens as of 1 December 2017. With similar results already achieved with Australia, Brunei and Japan, this leaves the United States as the only non-EU country in the EU's visa-free list which does not grant visa-free access to citizens of all EU Member States.

Full visa reciprocity achieved with Canada

As of 1 December 2017, full reciprocity has been achieved with Canada after visa requirements were lifted for all Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. Canada's decision comes after intensive diplomatic efforts and continued engagement at political and technical levels between the EU, Canada and the two Member States concerned. Canada had already partially lifted visa requirements for some Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in May 2017 and committed to fully lifting requirements as of 1 December 2017.

Continued engagement with the United States

Over the last seven months, contacts with the U.S. at political and technical level have intensified. The Commission is leading a result-oriented process to bring the five EU Member States concerned (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania) into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The Comission is not considering the adoption of a delegated act temporarily suspending the visa waiver for U.S. citizens for the moment because it would be counterproductive, but this position can be reviewed in light of future developments.

Reciprocity mechanism bearing fruit

Today's report also takes stock of the effectiveness of the visa reciprocity mechanism overall, an assessment which the Commission was due to submit to the European Parliament by 10 January 2018. The number of non-reciprocity cases has been considerably reduced in the last two and a half years, leaving the U.S. as the only third country in the EU's visa-free list which does not grant visa-free access to the citizens of all Member States. The visa reciprocity mechanism has thus proven to be an effective tool contributing to making progress in achieving full visa reciprocity with third countries for all EU citizens. The Commission is therefore not, at this point in time, considering a legislative proposal for the revision of the mechanism. The Commission will instead continue to pursue its diplomatic approach to achieve full visa reciprocity for all Member States.

Next Steps

The Commission remains committed to working closely with the European Parliament and the Council on the way forward. The Commission will continue to engage with the U.S. and the Member States concerned to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity. The Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials' Meeting on 27-28 February 2018 and the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting in May 2018 will provide occasions to further accelerate progress. The Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on further developments at the latest by autumn 2018.

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