The European Union Commission has resolved to take important steps towards monitoring the bloc's visa-free travel regimes, including the establishment of a consultation procedure.
This development is in reaction to the need to handle migration-related issues as well as security concerns within the bloc.
The EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, stated in a letter to the Council dated March 20, 2023, that “the Commission will strengthen its monitoring of the visa policy alignment and will present a comprehensive report paving the way for a legislative proposal amending the visa suspension mechanism,”.
Furthermore, following the approval of the Communication, the Commission will initiate a consultation procedure to accomplish the goals.
According to the Commission, while visa-free travel provides enormous social, economic, and cultural benefits to EU Member States and third countries, it has also resulted in serious migratory and security issues in recent years.
The Commission emphasises that insufficient adherence with the EU's visa policy might turn a visa-free country into a transit hub for illegal entry into the bloc.
This was especially obvious in 2022, when the Western Balkans recorded a significant number of arrivals from nationals of visa-free nations, leading in an increase in irregular arrivals to the EU.
Despite the Commission's extensive negotiations with Western Balkan partners, it has been underlined that investor citizenship programmes run by visa-free non-EU countries, among other things, pose security threats.
As a result, in order to effectively address these problems and avoid other risks, the Commission intends to examine existing regulations governing the monitoring of visa-free regimes with third countries and the suspension of visa exemptions.
“The EU’s visa policy is closely intertwined with our migration policies. Having a better visa policy will have a positive impact on our migration management. Aligning visa-free policies of the EU’s neighbouring countries is a key foundation for a strong united partnership with our neighbours in the region,” Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said.
To address increasing threats, potential amendments to the current rules could include the addition of new grounds for suspension.
Furthermore, a future change of the rules could include adjusting the criteria for activating the mechanism, strengthening monitoring and reporting provisions, and increasing the flexibility of the suspension procedure.
The Commission will now meet with the EU Parliament and Council to discuss ways to strengthen the visa policy toolkit through a redesigned Visa Suspension Mechanism.
Based on the discussions that will take place, the Commission intends to present a proposal proposing the modification of the Visa Suspension Mechanism in the autumn of this year.
Currently, the EU has visa-free access to 61 non-EU countries. Twenty-five nations have visa waiver agreements, while eight have acquired visa exemptions as a result of successful visa liberalisation negotiations.
Furthermore, the Parliament and the Council have agreed to free Kosovo from visa requirements. Visa-free travel for the country will be implemented on January 1, 2023.
By fLEXI tEAM