EU sets new criteria for suspending visa-free travel access

EU Targets Misalignment, Investor Citizenship, and Security Threats

EU sets new criteria for suspending visa-free travel access
EU sets new criteria for suspending visa-free travel access

The EU has established a new benchmark for suspending visa-free travel from third countries. The council has announced 3 new grounds for suspension of visa-free travel agreements with countries that lack of alignment with the EU’s visa policy, the operation of an investor citizenship scheme, and hybrid threats and deficiencies in document security legislation or procedures.

On 13 March 2024, the EU member states’ ambassadors agreed on their position to draft new mechanism that will facilitate the EU to suspend visa-free travel from third countries. Currently, nationals from 61 third countries are exempt from the visa requirement when they are travelling to the Schengen Area.

Lack of Alignment: This amendment has been made over the lack of alignment of visa-free third countries with the European Union’s (EU) visa policies. This discrepancy is particularly in instances where such countries, owing to their geographical closeness to the EU, could potentially become channels for increased arrivals into the Union. The EU’s vigilance on this matter underscores the importance of maintaining a robust and cohesive border policy, especially with nations that enjoy visa-free privileges, to mitigate any unintended surge in movements towards the EU.

Read the regulations proposed by European Union

Investor Citizenship Scheme: The operation of investor citizenship schemes, which grant citizenship to an individual without requiring genuine connection to the concerned third country in exchange for predetermined payment or investment could be a ground for suspension of visa-free agreement. Critics argue that that investor schemes provide pragmatic and mutually beneficial approach for both nation and investor.

The EU is concerned with the neutralization of individuals by investments and bypassing traditional residency or cultural integration criteria, but it needs to consider that the same schemes also provide economic development, job creation, infrastructure development and technological advancement to the host countries.

Hybrid Threats & Document Deficiencies: The escalating concern around hybrid threats, compounded by noticeable deficiencies in document security legislation and procedures, has sparked a significant dialogue among policymakers and security experts. These hybrid threats are a blend of conventional and unconventional tactics, including cyber-attacks and misinformation campaigns.

“In particular, the use of the suspension mechanism should be facilitated by broadening the possible grounds for suspension, adapting the relevant thresholds and procedures, and strengthening the Commission’s monitoring and reporting obligations,” added the Council of the European Union.

Read the regulations proposed by European Union

The council added that the suspension mechanism may be triggered in case of a significant risk or a threat to the public policy or national security of member states. “The special consideration should also be paid to deficiencies in document security, as it is essential that the travel and identity document issued by third countries for travel purposes to the territory of member, states can be fully trusted and not easily falsified or contra.”

What next

In case the EU consider to put a suspension on visa-free agreement in any such third country, the duration of temporary suspension of visa exemption has been increased from 9 to 12 months, and in some cases, it could be extended by another 24 months for the appropriate time to engage in a dialogue with the third country. Following the same, if no solution is found to the situation, the European Union can decide to permanently revoke the visa free travel agreement.