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BRUSSELS — A three-month reprieve in the ongoing visa battle between Canada, the U.S. and the European Union delays but doesn’t solve the diplomatic quagmire that could see Canadians (and Americans) require a visa for EU travel.
The European Commission has given the European Parliament and the 28 member governments until July 12 to figure out their next steps.
Canada has historically required visas for visitors arriving in Canada from Romania and Bulgaria. Now both countries are part of the EU and the EU wants Canada to drop the visa requirements. If it doesn’t, the EU says it would be required to reciprocate with visa requirements of its own, for Canadians travelling to all EU countries. The U.S. requires visas for travellers from five EU countries.
Meanwhile the European Travel Commission (ETC) issued a statement, saying it has been following “with increasing concern” the developments in the visa waiver reciprocity mechanism applied by the European Commission towards the citizens of the U.S. and Canada. “In order to preserve the smooth bilateral relations and the huge positive impact of U.S. and Canadian travellers on the European economy, ETC appeals to the EU authorities to follow the requirements of Regulation No1289/2013 and take into account the political, economic and administrative consequences of the suspension of the visa waiver with Canada and the U.S.”
Travellers from Canada and the U.S. currently account for the largest percentage of all extra-European arrivals, notes the ETC. In 2015 travel from the U.S. to Europe boomed, aided by a strong economy and a strong U.S. dollar. Both emerging and mature European destinations have seen visits from the U.S. and Canada grow, with arrivals from the two markets reaching 30.3 million tourists. Visitors from the U.S. alone spent more than $38 million during their stay.
However the ETC says the ultimate solution pursued should be full visa reciprocity, calling for the U.S. and Canadian authorities to cooperate and ensure a balanced and fair outcome. “At times when European tourism is already suffering the consequences of the tragic events in France and Belgium, we saw travellers from North America resilient in their plans to come to Europe. It would be extremely inconsiderate to close our doors to them and renounce billions of export revenue,” said ETC Executive Director, Eduardo Santander.