05 Nov 2010

The Canada-Czech Republic Visa Affair: A test for visa reciprocity and fundamental rights in the European Union

Alejandro Eggenschwiler

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In July 2009, Canada reintroduced the temporary visa requirement for nationals of the Czech Republic. Canadian authorities argued that it was necessary to limit the surge in asylum applications by Czech nationals of Roma origin who had been registered over the previous years. This is the first time that a country whose own nationals enjoy visa-free travel to the European Union has reintroduced visas for the nationals of an EU member state. This working paper assesses the implications of this measure for the EU’s common visa policy in light of the principle of reciprocity, which lies at its core. It looks in particular at the way in which the EU has reacted to and is currently dealing with this measure in order to see whether the instruments at the EU’s disposal to handle such situations have proven to be effective, and whether the necessary solidarity among the member states that should underpin the common visa policy can be said to exist. This paper assesses the Czech Republic-Canada visa affair also from the angle of the fundamental rights situation of Roma as a minority in Europe and the EU’s asylum system. In particular, it argues that the prohibition for EU nationals in need of international protection to seek it in any member state, contained in the EU’s asylum legislation, may be one of the driving forces behind the exodus of Czech Roma to Canada.

This work was prepared as part of a project on Migration and Asylum in Europe and EU-Canada Relations, funded by the European Commission, Directorate-General for External Relations, Relations with the US and Canada. The project aims at providing a better understanding of the conceptual, political, sociological and legal elements and dilemmas characterising the development of common European public responses to these issues, and their implications for the relationship between liberty and security in EU-Canada relations.

Alejandro Eggenschwiler is a Research Assistant at the Justice and Home Affairs Section of the Centre for European Policy Studies.