MEPs back visa-free travel suspension mechanism

An internal Schengen border without any controls. [Georgi Gotev]

Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs agreed today (7 July) that visa-free travel for non-EU citizens on EU territory can be suspended in particular circumstances.

MEPs today decided that the EU should have a suspension mechanism in place as an emergency brake in cases where visa-free travel in the EU is being abused by certain non-EU nationals. This suspension mechanism would apply to all non-EU countries which have visa-free travel arrangements with the EU.

The EU has recently granted visa-free travel to all EU hopefuls except Kosovo. The Commission has also said that Ukraine and Georgia have met all the requirements to obtain visa-free travel, the final decision resting with member states.

Juncker recommends visa liberalisation for Ukraine, Georgia, Kosovo

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday the EU should offer visa-free short-stay travel to the bloc for Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo – all three locked in bitter disputes with Russia.

In addition, the EU is ready to grant Turkey visa-free travel, provided Ankara fulfils the few of the remaining benchmarks.

Turkey moves closer to visa-free travel deal with EU

The EU vowed on Wednesday (20 April) to propose visa-free travel for Turks next month if Ankara meets the terms of a landmark refugee deal, as it tried to defuse a row with Turkey’s leaders.

Member states would like, however, to make sure that they could protect themselves in case too many nationals from those countries stay in. Visa-free travel allows visitors to stay up to three months, provided that they have the necessary funds, but does not allow them to overstay or seek employment.

Chief Negotiator Agustín Díaz de Mera MEP (EPP, Spain) was given the green light to start negotiating with EU government ministers.

“We will grant visas but today we have taken a step to include in legislation an urgent procedure to remove visa-free travel for non-EU countries which do not meet European criteria,” Díaz de Mera said.

With the suspension mechanism, it will be easier for EU governments to notify the European Commission of particular circumstances that could lead to a possible suspension of visa-free travel for certain non-EU nationals. This would enable the Commission to trigger the mechanism. This law will ask the European Commission to present an annual report to the European Parliament and to the EU governments on the continuous fulfilment of the criteria of visa-exempt non-EU countries which they have to reach.

Díaz de Mera MEP insisted that it is necessary and legally appropriate to use the delegated act and not the implementing act for this suspension mechanism, in order to ensure adequate involvement of the European Parliament in the process.

The first meeting of Agustín Díaz de Mera MEP with the EU Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs is scheduled for next week.

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