EU moves closer to reimposing visas on Balkans

Decision that was made by the large majority could affect Balkan countries that are not EU members. A European Stability Initiative analyst warns about the potential dangers, saying it will not help fight against illegal migrants and the increase of asylum seekers

EU moves closer to reimposing visas on Balkans

World Bulletin/News Desk

With 328 in favor,  257 against, and 46 abstentions, the European Parliament adopted on Thursday an amendment to EU visa regulation allowing temporary suspension of a visa free travel regime for non EU member countries.

The new rules will enable EU to temporarily suspend its visa-free travel arrangements with third countries, in order "to halt substantial and sudden increases in irregular migrant numbers or unfounded asylum requests, but only as a last resort," the statement from the Parliament session claims.

This ruling can affect Balkan countries where from huge number of asylum seekers has been registered all over the EU. 

According to the statement form the Parliament session, visa waivers could be temporarily suspended "in emergency situation(s), as a last resort", in which a "substantial and sudden increase, over a six month period", in numbers of irregular migrants, unfounded asylum requests or rejected readmission applications had been detected.

"The suspension mechanism does not target specific third countries. It would provide a general framework for the future, and could be triggered for any country whose nationals are eligible to travel visa-free to the EU. The amendments to the visa regulation aim to preserve the integrity of the visa liberalization process and ensure that visa-free travel to the EU does not lead to abuses", Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Agustín Díaz de Mera is quoted in the statement.

Alexandra Stiglmayer from European Stability Initiative, speaking for Anadolu Agency, qualified this decision as "disappointment".

"We regret that EP has voted in favor of the suspension clause because we think it does not make much sense, it is politically potentially disastrous and it continues a line of action that will not resolve the problem of increase of asylum seekers from the Western Balkans," Stiglmayer said.

EU countries will be able to take this measure, after the approval from the European Commission, and notification of the EP.

"Potentially dangerous"

Alexandra Stigmayer, an analyst for the European Stability Initiative (ESI), believes that the decision taken by the European Parliament on Thursday could be politically dangerous.

"We regret that the European Parliament has voted in favor of the suspension clause because we think it does not make much sense. It is potentially politically disastrous and it continues a line of action that will not resolve the problem of an increase of asylum seekers from the Western Balkans following visa liberalization," Stiglmayer told AA.

Stiglmayer, who has been researching the ESI on this issue for years, believes that a better solution could be found, and one of them is to reduce the time it takes to decide on an asylum claim. She noted that the countries favored by asylum seekers, like Germany or Sweden, have long initial asylum procedures of several months, or even longer in the case of appeals.

As an example of good practice, she points to Switzerland, where the procedure was reduced last year, resulting in a 10 percent decrease in asylum seekers.

"Our point is that member states can and should resolve this process on the internal level.“

"Concerning the suspension clause, member states say that they want to put pressure on Western Balkan politicians to act. But we believe this can do very little.  The only thing it can do effectively is to stop people from leaving, and that is discrimination. Of course, it could and should help if the living conditions of the Roma and other groups, which are the main groups of people who try to obtain asylum in the EU, are improved. But this is a long term endeavor,“ Stiglmayer said.

Political consequences could be terrible if the suspension clause is implemented, affecting support for EU accession in the region, the ESI analyst claims.


Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2013, 16:04
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