European lawmakers have asked for a temporary re-introduction of visa requirements for United States(US) citizens in order to encourage Washington to grant citizens of European Union(EU) member states visa-free access to the U.S..
A majority of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) said the European Commission should comply with EU law by temporarily reintroducing visa requirements for U.S. citizens.
MEPs held a debate on the issue on Wednesday evening, with most speakers agreeing that it was “a matter of principle” and stressing that EU rules oblige the European Commission to put forward a delegated act to suspend an EU waiver if the country to which it was granted did not offer full visa reciprocity to all EU citizens, regardless of member state.
Certain MEPs went so far as to suggest that the European Parliament could bring the issue to be heard by the European Court of Justice.
In addition to that of the United States, Canada’s visa policy has been under scrutiny by parliamentarians. The U.S. currently imposes visa requirements on citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, with Canada imposing visa requirements on citizens of Bulgaria and Romania, though it has pledged to lift them by the end of 2017.
European Commissioner of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos urged caution at the debate. While admitting the European Commission had a legal obligation to act in cases of a lack of visa reciprocity, that it must also “take account of the consequences” of its decisions.
Commissioner Avramopoulos warned MEPs that even announcing the reintroduction of visa requirements for U.S. citizens would lead to “retaliation” and, in addition, a drop in numbers of visitors, and substantial losses for the tourism sector in income and employment.
Under the EU’s visa reciprocity mechanism, in force since January 2014, if a third country does not lift visa requirements 24 months after being notified of non-reciprocity, the European Commission must suspend the visa waiver for citizens of that country for 12 months, via a delegated act to which both the European Parliament and the European Council could object.
After a notification of non-reciprocity on April 12, 2014, the European Commission should have acted before April 12, 2016, but has yet to take any measures regarding visa requirements for citizens of the U.S. and Canada.