The objective is to simplify travel to the Schengen area, as well as to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. A national from one of these countries would no longer require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) if he/she is in possession of a passport, be it for business, touristic or family visit purposes. This will make travel planning easier and reduce the travelling costs. Member States’ limited consular presence in many of these countries has resulted in visa applicants often having to travel abroad to apply for a Schengen visa.
The Commission’s proposal foresees that the visa exemption will be reciprocated through visa waiver agreements, ensuring a visa free regime for all EU citizens who wish to travel to these countries. (Moreover, specific categories of British citizens currently under the visa obligation (an estimated 300.000 people mostly residing in British Overseas Territories like Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos islands) will also be exempt. It is now up to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union to take a final decision on the Commission proposal.
Today’s proposal to transfer these 16 countries to the visa-free list by amending Regulation 539/2001 is the result of the regular review process carried out by the European Commission. It is based on a case by case assessment of technical requirements and criteria relating, amongst others, to irregular migration, public policy and security, and to the European Union’s external relations with third countries. Since its adoption, the Visa Regulation has been amended eight times. Most recently, in 2010 when Taiwan, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina were transferred to the visa-free list.