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March 16, 2023

EU Considers an “Evident” Need to Revise the Bloc’s Visa

The Swedish Council Presidency has considered that there is an evident need to revise the European Union’s visa suspension mechanism after a “near-record” number of applications filed for asylum last year from nationals of visa-free countries and an “extremely cumbersome” process for lifting countries from the visa-free list.

According to a report from the non-profit organization, Statewatch, the proposal among others notes:

“The Presidency believes it high time to initiate a discussion on the future of EU visa policy. How can EU visa policy be made more strategic and sustainable? How can we ensure that decisions on visa exemption are based on relevant criteria and how can we ensure that we have functional mechanisms in place if visa liberalisation is abused or results in negative consequences?” the statement reads, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

The Presidency stressed that it began a comparative outlook where the visa policies of some third countries, such as Canada, the United States, New Zealand as well as the United Kingdom have been studied, in order to put the EU Visa Policy into a wider context.

In addition, it said that such a proposal comes following a discussion in the Visa Working Party regarding the visa suspension mechanism as well as its possible revision, therefore the Presidency is planning to initiate a broader perspective regarding the future of the European Union visa policy.

The announcement noted that while the visa exemption criteria cover different essentially political areas, grounds for temporary suspension are limited to security and migration risks generated by the violation of visa exemption.

The Presidency considered an open debate on whether such asymmetry is justified as well as whether the suspension of visa exemption should continue to remain connected only to migratory as well as security issues. However, it was emphasized that discussions in the Visa Working Party resulted in a common opinion that the grounds for visa suspension should be quantifiable and clear.

According to the statement, visa-free regimes should be regularly assessed based on the same criteria that lead to lifting the visa requirements at first.

Statewatch notes that at present the following countries are subject to visa facilitation suspensions, Russia, Belarus, and Vanuatu while noting that the use of Schengen visas as a political tool in Ukraine, has been questioned by a number of human rights organisations as well as legal experts.

It mentions Sarah Ganty of Ghent University who argued that “adopting sanctions exclusively based on citizenship is far from proper in the world cherishing human rights, where citizenship itself, constitutes the main factor of inequalities around the globe.”

The announcement of the Presidency also refers to other developments in visa policy, taking also into account the introduction of a proposal regarding the digitalisation of the visa procedure that in the near future will be subject to negotiations between the Parliament as well as the Council, as explained by the Presidency in a separate note.