European Parliament and Council of the EU have agreed position on revised visa waiver suspension mechanism.
EWB analyzes main innovations introduced in the revised mechanism and their possible impact on Ukraine, basing on press release published by Council of the EU on December, 8.
What has happened?
On 7 December 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed, on behalf of the Council, the compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on a regulation to revise the suspension mechanism which can be applied to all existing visa liberalisation agreements. The agreement was reached between the Council, Parliament and Commission on the same day (so-called trialogue).
What does it mean for Ukraine – according to previous decision of Coreper, visa waiver for Ukraine and Georgia can not be introduced before new mechanism is adopted. Agreement paves the way for granting visa-free travel for citzens of both countries.
What has changed?
A lot of.
– it is made easier for member states to notify circumstances which might lead to a suspension
– Commission is enabled to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative – the suspension can be triggered by a notification of a member state or by the Commission
– monitoring mechanism is introduced. Commission is to send annual reports to the European Parliament and Council on the extent to which visa-exempt third countries continue to meet the necessary criteria. According to the draft document, report should be provided “at least once a year, for a period of seven years after the entry into force of visa liberalisation”.
Grounds for suspension extended to:
– decrease in cooperation on readmission
– substantial increase in the refusal rate of readmission applications, including for third-country nationals in transit
– substantial increase in the risk to public policy or internal security of the member states
– substantial increase in refusals of entry to nationals of that third country
Compare to previous reasons for Member states to notify about abuse. It could be a substantial and sudden increase (at least 50%) in the number of:
(a) nationals of that third country found to be staying in the Member State’s territory without a right thereto;
(b) asylum applications from the nationals of that third country for which the recognition rate is low, where such an increase is leading to specific pressures on the Member State’s asylum system;
(c) rejected readmission applications submitted by the Member State to that third country for its own nationals
Terms – procedure became faster
The reference period for comparing the circumstances leading to the suspension with the situation for the previous year or before visa liberalisation is shortened from six to two months.
How does the revised mechanism work?
If a simple majority of member states notifies, the Commission will have to adopt an implementing decision temporarily suspending the exemption from the visa requirement for certain categories of nationals of the third country concerned for a period of 9 months. If the circumstances persist, the Commission shall adopt (at the latest two months prior to the expiry of the 9 months) a delegated act temporarily suspending the visa waiver for a period of 18 months for all the nationals of the third country concerned.
What does it mean for Ukraine –
- Objective risks of suspension of Ukrainian visa waiver after it will be granted are quite low, but it is still possible that Russian agents of influence and populists may lobby triggering new mechanism against Ukraine.
- We have no problems with readmission from the EU – so there is likely no threat for visa waiver.
- Number of asylum seekers from Ukraine increased significantly after Russian agression in Crimea and Donbas, but it stays low in absolute numbers. Also, according to Eurostat, in the first half of 2016 amount of asylum seekers decreased comparing to same period of 2015. To avoid risks of increase in asylum seeker, illegal stay and entry refusals Ukrainian authorities, NGOs, media have to inform and explain again and again how to use visa-free travel to EU correctly.
- The role of Member states in triggering the suspension mechanism increased, so Ukraine needs to strengthen bilateral contacts with EU members, work with public opinion in these countries, and should start doing it immediately (for example, explaining that visa waiver for Ukraine is not for 45 million people but for 2 million of holders of biometric passport etc)
- Categorizing of suspension is rather a positive sign – it means that even in case something goes really wrong, we can avoid immediate cancel of free travels for all. It also decreases the possible losses from decision based on false alarm.
Updated on 14/12/2016. Link to draft Regulation 15395/16 and data on 7 year period of monitoring added, level of entry refusals added to list of grounds for suspension.