European Council
Council of the European Union

Visa waiver suspension mechanism: Council ready to start negotiations with Parliament

Council of the EU
  • 20/05/2016
  • 13:55
  • Press release
  • 258/16
  • Home Affairs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations
20/05/2016

On 20 May 2016, the Council agreed its negotiating position on the proposed regulation to revise the suspension mechanism which can be applied to all existing visa liberalisation agreements. On the basis of this mandate, the Netherlands presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as the latter has adopted its position.

"Visa liberalisation has great advantages for the EU and third countries. Yet we need an emergency brake for all visa free countries to make sure that visa liberalisation cannot be abused. I'm pleased that we agreed today on a mechanism that makes it easier to act against abuse. I'm looking forward to working with the European Parliament to realise this soon", said Klaas Dijkhoff, Minister for Migration of the Netherlands and President of the Council.

The main objective of this proposal is to strengthen the suspension mechanism by making it easier for member states to notify circumstances leading to a possible suspension,by enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative and by tasking the Commission to send a yearly report to the European Parliament and Council on the continuous fulfilment of the criteria of visa-exempt third countries.

The possible grounds of suspension have been extended, and will also include a decrease of cooperation on readmission, in particular indicated by a substantial increase in the refusal rate of readmission applications, including for third-country nationals having transited through the third country concerned, and a substantial increase of risks to the public policy or internal security of the member states.

The use of the mechanism will also be facilitated by shortening reference periods and deadlines allowing for a faster procedure. In particular, the reference period for comparing the circumstances leading to the suspension with the situation of the previous year or before the visa liberalisation is shortened from six to two months.

The suspension can be triggered by a notification of a member state or by the Commission. If a simple majority of member states notifies, the Commission will have to adopt a draft implementing decision temporarily suspending the exemption from the visa requirement for the nationals of the third country concerned for a period of six months.

Moreover, the Council has also introduced a monitoring mechanism with the purpose of ensuring that third countries which have been granted visa exemption following a visa liberalisation dialogue continue to fulfil the criteria which were the basis for granting visa free status.

Background

On 11 December 2013, the European Parliament and Council adopted Regulation 1289/2013, which amended Regulation 539/2001 by introducing the so-called "suspension mechanism" and modifying the reciprocity mechanism.

According to the current mechanism, when a member state is confronted, over a six-month period, with one or more well defined circumstances related to nationals of a third country leading to an emergency situation which it is unable to remedy on its own, the member state may request the Commission to suspend for a short period of time the visa waiver for the nationals of that country. The suspension can only be temporarily applied as a last resort. The specific circumstances cover a substantial and sudden increase in the number of irregular migrants, unfounded asylum requests or rejected readmissions applications.

Even if the conditions for triggering the safeguard clause are clearly defined, the Commission will have to assess the situation and there should be no automaticity flowing from the notifications by member states. If the Commission decides that action is needed on the basis of its examination and taking into account the consequences of a suspension of the exemption from the visa requirement for the external relations of the EU and its member states with the third country concerned, it shall adopt an implementing act  temporarily suspending the exemption from the visa requirement for the nationals of the third country concerned for a period of six months.

In the context of the current migratory situation in the European Union and taking into account the Commission's recent proposals for visa liberalisation of Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and Kosovo and the recent discussions with member states, the Commission decided on 4 May 2016 to present a proposal to amend Regulation 539/2001 to revise the current suspension mechanism.