Immigration lawyers in Canada discuss the potential results of such a measure
This summer, the European Commission will make a decision on whether or not it will require visas from visiting Canadians. As observed by Michelle Zilio of The Globe and Mail, this topic comes at a critical time: when Canada and the European Union (EU) are working to build closer ties and ratify a historic free-trade deal.
Canada currently requires Romanians and Bulgarians to have visitor visas in order to visit or transit through Canada. As for the United States, they currently require visas for citizens from five EU member states: Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada explained that “Canada’s visa policy is not based on reciprocity. Rather, Canada must be satisfied that countries meet its criteria for a visa exemption”. The criteria not met by Bulgaria and Romania include migration issues, security of travel documents, public safety, border management and human rights.
According to Sorin Moisa, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, the criteria chosen by Canada is unfair, not transparent and can’t be challenged in court. He accused Canada of trying to do “social-political engineering,” demanding things of Romania it does not require from other countries, applying criteria that “would not hold water.”
The EU believe they are obligated to reciprocate with visa requirements of their own in order to comply with a visa reciprocity mechanism adopted in 2014. According to this revised reciprocity mechanism, “[i]f the third country has not lifted the visa requirement within 24 months of the publication date, the Commission shall adopt a delegated act on the temporary suspension of the visa waiver for 12 months for citizens of that third country.”
As such, if Canada refuses to lift its visa requirement for Romanians and Bulgarians by mid-July, the EU will be obligated to reciprocate. The EU’s College of Commissioners, which represents all 28 member states, was expected to proceed with a “delegated act” on April 12, 2016, to impose a visa requirement for Canadians and Americans visiting Europe. However, European Commissioners avoided making a decision and pushed the deadline off another 90 days.
However, many experts believe that the visa requirement will never be imposed on Canadians or Americans, as the implications for tourism and trade would be significant. Canadian Immigration lawyers are concerned by the implication that the European tourism industry would be a deterrent to the measure, given the potential loss of revenue from Canadian travellers who probably wouldn’t bother visiting countries where a visa is required.
Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, believes that “[a] visa [requirement] would be unfortunate, to say the least, when you’re in the process of finalizing the most wide-ranging free-trade agreement in history and yet you could be imposing visas on tourists and travellers.” Nonetheless, Mr. Langrish does not believe it’s going to get to that point.
As such, the stakes are so high on both sides that it is highly likely that Canada will lift its visa requirements for Romania and Bulgaria or that the EU Commission will be overruled by majority votes at either the European Council (representing foreign ministers from 28 member states) or the elected members of the European Parliament in Brussels, if it decides to impose visa requirements against Canadians.
Even if the EU votes “yes” to impose visa requirements for Canada and the United States, “there are so many processes that need to be put in place before it would become mandated, so I would not worry about it at this point” as explained Mary Jane Hiebert of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies. Considering this fact, there is no need for Canadian travellers to panic, since a number of barriers stand in the way of the measure coming into force any time soon.