Canada-EU Visa Spat: European Commission Again Delays Decision

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OTTAWA — The European Commission has again pushed off a decision on whether to require Canadians to have a visa to enter the EU.

The commission says it's now looking ahead to the Canada-EU summit this fall to see more progress on the issue of Canada removing visa restrictions on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria.

The EU insists that since Canadians don't require visas to go to Europe, EU citizens should not need them to come to Canada.

john mccallum
Immigration Minister John McCallum speaks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in March 2016. (Photo: Martial Trezzini/EPA via CP)

In April, the Commission urged the European Parliament and council to "take a position" on the issue by July 12 — but neither did.

The commission notes that high-level political talks — including a visit last week by Canadian Immigration Minister John McCallum — have demonstrated progress, but they still want the issue resolved.

Top EU interior affairs official Dimitris Avramopoulos says the commission will continue to apply pressure.

'Full visa waiver reciprocity'

"Achieving full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states is the objective for the European Commission and a fundamental principle of our common visa policy," he said in a statement Wednesday.

To decide whether to lift visa requirements, the Canadian government looks at several factors including how many visa applications are refused as well as immigration violation rates.

Officials from McCallum's department travelled to Romania last month to examine progress by that country and are making a similar trip to Bulgaria this month.

Pressure to lift visas on those citizens is twofold.

Deal with Mexico adds to pressure

First, the Liberals recently announced they will lift visa requirements on Mexican nationals. And EU officials say if it can be done for Mexicans, it should be done for Europeans.

Second, full ratification of the Canada-EU free trade agreement is at stake, with the possibility that Romania and Bulgaria will refuse to sign the deal if the visas remain.

McCallum travelled to Brussels last week to smooth some ruffled diplomatic feathers on both counts.

"Our dialogues underline the importance of the strong bonds between Canada and the European Union," McCallum and Avramopoulos said in a joint statement after the meeting.

Officials from the immigration department have already travelled to Romania to assess issues on the ground there. They will be making a similar trip to Bulgaria this month.

Canada and the EU are to hold a summit in Brussels this October.

"The Commission looks forward to the EU-Canada Summit, which will take place on 27-28 October 2016, as the occasion to confirm tangible progress on the lifting of the visa requirement for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens," Wednesday's statement said. 

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