A carefully-worded joint statement was the only outcome of a high-stakes meeting between Canada’s Immigration Minister, his European Union counterpart, and officials from Romania and Bulgaria.
It means the limbo over whether Canada will grant visa-free travel to Romanians and Bulgarians continues, with the threat of Canadians also needing a visa for EU visits still looming large.
With a July 12 deadline set for the resolution of a disagreement over visa reciprocity, the federal government’s John McCallum flew to Brussels for talks on Sunday.
Key Facts on Canada-EU Visa Reciprocity
- EU introduced rule in 2014 saying all countries with visa-free access must provide same privilege for all member states.
- Countries including Canada and US given two years to comply.
- Canada does not allow visa-free travel for Bulgarians or Romanians.
- Deadline expired on April 12, was extended to July 12.
- No agreement likely to mean Canadians will need visas to travel to Schengen area (not including UK and Ireland).
- Romanians using recent lifting of Mexican visa requirement as part of their argument.
It was billed as a trip to rubber-stamp visa-free travel against the backdrop of separate negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), that has been seven years in the making.
Romanian officials have not been afraid to link their support for the CETA deal to the granting of visa-free travel.
But far from establishing a timeline for the lifting of the visa requirement, McCallum said only that the assessment of the two EU-member countries would be completed late summer, with a report expected in the fall.
He met with Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Romanian minister Dragos Tudorache, plus Rumen Alexandrov and Philip Gounev from Bulgaria.
Key Facts on CETA
- Canada-EU trade deal has been 7 years in the making.
- Would eliminate duties on thousands of products, covering 95 per cent of everything Canada sells to Europe
- Would give Canada car manufacturers, plus beef and pork producers, significant access to EU markets.
- Initially faced fierce opposition in France and Germany.
- Opposed by one of Belgium’s four parliamentary houses.
- Romania has linked its support for deal directly to visa reciprocity.
- Formal signing of deal was expected in October, but now likely to de delayed.
- ‘Brexit’ created further uncertainty due to Britain’s involvement in the deal.
The statement, attributed to McCallum and Avramopoulos, read: “Our dialogues underline the importance of the strong bonds between Canada and the European Union. They also reflect our countries’ mutual goal of visa-free travel to Canada for all European Union member states.
“We all remain optimistic that our meetings this week, and our ongoing close cooperation, will bring us closer to achieving that goal.”
The EU introduced a rule more than two years ago saying any country granted visa-free access to the Schengen area of countries had to give the same privileges in return.
Countries including Canada and the US were given two years to comply, or face losing their own visa-free travel rights.
But Canada previously stated neither Romania nor Bulgaria met requirements for visa free travel, with McCallum saying: “We don’t do it in terms of reciprocity.”
The deadline expired on April 12, but was extended to July 12, and it seems the decision will be delayed further with officials reluctant because of the administrative burden a visa imposition would create.
The looming CETA deal only served to complicate the issue, with Canada trying to expedite the ratification process at the same time as standing firm on visas.
Romania sees its case for visa-free travel as stronger than Mexico’s. The Mexicans were granted visa-free access to Canada in June for the first time since 2009, when the restriction was imposed because of a huge number of asylum claims.
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