EU Visa Code Reform – Necessary But Not Easy

The  massive,  all-time  high  inflow  of  asylum  seekers  to  the  European  Union  in  2015  sparked  discussions  across  the  EU  on  how  to  deal  with  the migration  challenge.  The  European  Council  and  the  EU  Member States proposed  a  number  of  measures,  from a  mandatory  quota  system  to  strengthening  external borders and a shutdown of the Schengen zone, or at least a limitation of it. In this context, a review of the EU Visa Code which is aimed at introducing more liberal visa procedures for foreigners, which was started in April 2014, might be seen by some as inappropriate.

This  view  is,  however,  largely  a  result  of  misunderstandings  about  the nature of  existing  visa  procedures and  the  difference  between  flows  of  irregular (forced)  immigration  and  legitimate travelling.  There is no direct link between visa liberalization and the dynamics of long-term migration and asylum requests.

In this paper we discuss the proposal to amend the Visa Code by the European Commission, the outcomes of discussions on this document in the European Parliament and the Council, and the supposed economic benefits  for  the  EU  if  more  liberal  visa  regulations  are  adopted. We  pay  special  attention  to  the Eastern European states, whose nationals receive around half of all Schengen visas issued globally. Therefore, the discussed  Visa  Code  reform  is  of  particular  importance  for Eastern  Europe,  especially  Belarus,  a  direct neighbour of the Schengen area.

We take a stance in the discussion on the future shape of the European visa policy in the time of this so-called migration crisis, and on the eve of political decisions about proposed amendments to the Visa Code. Our  recommendation is  to  adopt the proposed  changes  to  the  framework  regulation  on  the  EU common visa  policy.  Although  our  assessment  of  the  European Commission’s  legislative  proposal  is  generally positive,  in  this  brief  we  critically  review  and  raise  some  objections  to  the  amendments  made  by  the      Council of the EU.

The Policy Brief is prepared by experts of the Stefan Batory Foundation and the Eurasian States in Transition (EAST) Research Centre.

The whole document you can find here: EU Visa Code reform – Batory Foundation policy brief – 30.05.2016

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