Canada set to gradually grant Bulgarians visa-free travel

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was told by his Canadian counterpart that a gradual lifting of visa requirements would be started next year. [EPP/Flickr]

Canada will lift visa requirements for some Bulgarians in 2017, ahead of a full-scale scrapping of the system by mid 2018, according to the country’s government. Romania wants complete waivers for its citizens starting in 2017. EURACTIV Romania reports.

After Bulgaria and Romania both expressed their reluctance to ratify the EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA) if Ottawa did not finally grant their citizens visa-free travel, Canada embarked on some intense negotiations to resolve the matter.

French MPs decide not to block CETA

The French parliament’s European affairs committee has rejected a resolution calling on France to block the ratification of CETA, just days before Prime Minister Manuel Valls is due to visit Canada. EURACTIV France reports.

This new development is expected to placate Bulgaria’s concerns and paves the way for all the member states to sign off on the somewhat-controversial trade agreement later this month.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borissov, during a phone call on Thursday evening (6 October) that visas would be initially lifted for business people, people that have already visited Canada and for any Bulgarian citizen holding a US visa come 1 May 2017.

Sofia announced that Trudeau’s government would “strive to provide visa-free travel for all other Bulgarian citizens in late 2017”.

The government’s press office added that the deadline for completely waiving the visa requirement could be extended to no later than May 2018, should administrative setbacks delay the introduction of the new scheme.

Less than 24 hours after Sofia made its announcement, Mediafax cited Romanian government sources that insisted that Bucharest wants visas to be scrapped for all its citizens in 2017, rather than 2018.

The sources quoted said that the Canadian government has already informed Romania that it intends to lift the visa requirement, following on from Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş’ meetings with Trudeau in the summer and last month.

Bulgaria and Romania inch closer to visa-free travel with Canada

Canada and Bulgaria have come to an agreement on a roadmap towards visa liberalisation, while the Romanian government indicated that there is a good chance of the same being granted to them in the near future as well. EURACTIV Romania reports.

Mediafax’s insiders said that Bucharest was made completely aware of Canada’s intention to gradually lift the requirements for some Bulgarian citizens, but indicated that Romania has higher expectations.

Canada is soon set to announce the full results of an evaluation it carried out in the summer into a potential roadmap for waiving visas. Currently, Romania and Bulgaria are the only two EU member states that have not yet been granted visa-free travel.

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