The European Commission has proposed to tighten visa suspension rules and the monitoring of visa-free countries in response to the “abuse” of visa-free travel in Europe.
This significant move comes as a response to the growing challenges posed by increased irregular arrivals, investor citizenship schemes in visa-free countries, and the looming threat of hybrid security issues.
Challenges Prompting the Proposal
In a statement, the European Commission cited various challenges that have necessitated this proposal. These challenges include irregular arrivals, the exploitation of investor citizenship programs in visa-free countries, and hybrid threats that undermine the security and integrity of the European Union.
Visa-Free Travel: A Vital Element for EU Partnerships
The European Commission views visa-free travel as a vital element for fostering people-to-people connections and strengthening business, social, and cultural ties between the EU and its partner states.
Margaritis Schinas, the Vice-President for Promoting Our European Way of Life, emphasized the importance of maintaining this achievement while expanding it to more countries. Schinas further added that constant vigilance is necessary to ensure the continued success of visa-free travel.
EU Visa Suspension Mechanism
The EU’s visa suspension mechanism is a tool that allows the bloc to temporarily suspend visa-free travel for citizens of a third country if there is a sudden and substantial increase in irregular migration or security risks.
The Commission’s proposal to tighten the visa suspension rules is aimed at making it easier and faster to trigger the mechanism in response to abuses of visa-free travel.
For example, under the current rules, the Commission must notify the European Parliament and the Council of its intention to trigger the mechanism at least two months in advance. The proposed changes would reduce this notice period to one month.
The Commission is also proposing to expand the grounds for triggering the mechanism. For example, the mechanism could be triggered if a third country fails to cooperate with the EU on the return of irregular migrants.
Monitoring of Visa-Free Countries
The Commission is also proposing to strengthen the monitoring of visa-free countries. This would involve collecting more data on irregular migration and security risks, and conducting more regular assessments of visa-free countries.
The Commission is also proposing to create a new early warning system to identify potential problems before they lead to a situation where the visa suspension mechanism needs to be triggered.
The EU’s visa-free travel regime is a major benefit for both EU citizens and citizens of third countries. It makes it easier for people to travel and connect with each other, which can boost trade, tourism, and cultural exchange.
However, it is important to ensure that the visa-free travel regime is not abused. The Commission’s proposal is aimed at strengthening the regime and making it more resilient to abuse.
The proposal is still in its early stages, and it will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council. However, it is a sign that the EU is taking the issue of visa-free travel abuse seriously.