The Europe Union’s (EU) will be voting on whether or not to install visa requirements for American and Canadian citizens. As it stands, U.S. and Canadian nationals enjoy visa-free travel within the EU. The question of reciprocity has been raised due to the fact that a few member nations must apply for visas before entering the U.S. and Canada. Delegates from the 28 member nations will meet in Brussels and must make a decision by April 12, 2016.
The EU is a conglomerate of separate nations. While each individual member country enjoys sovereignty within its borders, each nation becomes parts of a larger body upon entering. Originally founded by six nations after the Second World War, the EU has grown to include 28 countries. The most recent nations to join were; Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, and Croatia in 2013.
Many of the countries which comprise the union are able to travel to and from the U.S. and Canada without a visa. Americans and Canadians enjoy the same luxury. The problem is some countries in the union cannot visit the two North American countries visa-free.
Romania and Bulgaria joined the community of nations in 2007. Prior to that, both the U.S. and Canada demanded visas from the citizens of these two countries. In addition, the U.S. requires a visa for citizens of Croatia, Cyprus and Poland.
This lack of complete reciprocity has prompted the European Union’s political arm, the European Commission (EC), to consider voting on visa requirements for American and Canadian citizens. The New York Times reported the group of nations is putting pressure on the U.S. and Canada to add the rest of its member nations to the visa waiver program. The EC will vote on whether or not to demand visas from nationals of the North American countries on April 12.
Of the 28-nation commission, Britain and Ireland have chosen not to attend.
The U.S. has listed several reasons why they have the policy they do. Nations that are not part of the visa waiver program are at a higher rate of their citizens entering the U.S., finding under-the-table jobs and staying longer than the 90 days.
Canada’s immigration department said their visa policy had nothing to do with reciprocity. They stated Romania and Bulgaria do not comply with its criteria for free travel. The criteria includes a lack of security regarding travel documents, little public safety, low border security and a poor standard of human rights.
The New York Times reported it was unlikely the EC will ratify visa demands. If the proposition passes, there will be a six-month window for the European nations to block it. Further, the European Parliament will have a chance to veto the proposed changes to the visa system.
Washington D.C. and Brussels have been working on a trade agreement. Reuters reported the agreement has a probable chance of passing before Obama leaves the White House.
The decision to demand visas from American and Canadian citizens comes at a fragile time for the trade agreement. Obama has a series of important meetings regarding both trade negotiation and the visa situation. He will visit Britain and later has a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkal, before heading to a trade fair on April 24, in Hanover.
The European Union has until April 12, to vote on instituting visa requirements for American and Canadian citizens. It could be a way to pressure the U.S. and Canada into allowing all member nations visa-free travel. Still, the European Parliment could veto the decision or member nations could fight the outcome. As it stands, a majority of EU nations enjoy visa-free travel to the North American countries. Some nations are deemed either a risk or not compliant enough to receive the same treatment.
By Harrison Baker
Edited by Jeanette Smith
BBC New: What is the EU and how does it work?
DW: European Union to consider reimposition of visas against the US and Canada next week
The New York Times: European Union to Consider Requiring Visas for U.S. Travelers
Reuters: EU may require visas from Americans and Canadians: EU source
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