OTTAWA — Romania's prime minister says he's hopeful the visa spat between his country and Canada will be resolved soon — because otherwise, his country may not support the Canada-EU free trade deal.
Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos discussed the biggest ongoing irritant between Canada and the European Union in an interview with The Canadian Press this week during his visit to Ottawa.
Ciolos said he emerged from talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confident the travel restriction can be lifted in the coming months. But if that doesn't happen, Ciolos said his country won't be able to support the trade deal, known as CETA.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday June 15, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
"Romania will have difficulty to support an agreement that creates this negative discrimination for its citizens," Ciolos said in an interview at the Romanian embassy.
"Based on the discussions I have had with Prime Minister Trudeau, I am confident we can together find a solution in order to avoid this."
Canada imposed a visa requirement on Romania and Bulgaria, but the EU insists on visa-free travel for all 28 of its member countries and has repeatedly pointed to its September 2014 joint declaration with Canada affirming that.
It does not appear likely that Romania or Bulgaria could block final ratification of the trade deal, but the issue remains a formidable speed bump in the long-running saga to finalize the pact, which has been seven years in the making.
"We think that Romania is ready, technically speaking, to comply with all the expectations in this direction," Ciolos said.
"I hope that in the next months we will be able to find a solution in order to give to Romania the political possibility to fully support CETA."
Even if Romania and Bulgaria oppose the free trade deal, it is still expected to win approval of the European Parliament, which would mean as much as 90-per-cent of the deal would come into force under what is known as provisional implementation.
Ciolos said he wants to see CETA in place because he helped negotiate it as the EU's former commissioner for agriculture.
"So you can imagine that personally as prime minister of a EU member state, I want to be able to support this agreement together with others," he said.
Marie-Anne Coninsx, the European Union's ambassador to Canada, has also linked the free trade deal to the visa situation. She has called the visa "an irritant which should not be there" and has said it is "regrettable" the problem could not have been solved sooner.
EU and Canadian politicians have said they expect CETA to come into force sometime in early 2017.