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Travelling to Europe? Canadians and Americans may require visas soon

Canadian and U.S. citizens looking to head to Europe could soon be required to apply for visas before travelling.
Canadian and U.S. citizens looking to head to Europe could soon be required to apply for visas before travelling. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Canadian and U.S. citizens looking to head to Europe could soon be required to apply for visas before travelling, according to a report.

Reuters reports that the European Commission (EC) executive body is considering making visitors from the two North American countries apply for visas.

A migration spokesperson for the EC said in an email “non-reciprocity situations with Canada and the US” will be looked at on April 12.

READ MORE: How easy is it to travel with a Canadian passport?

“Achieving full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all Member States is a priority for the EU,” a spokesperson said. “Notifications of non-reciprocity situations with Canada and the US were published on 12 April 2014 – the Commission therefore has to verify the situation as of 12 April 2016.”

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While Canadians and Americans travel visa-free throughout the European Union, the same cannot be said for all travelers from EU member countries.

The Canadian government requires entry visas from Romanians, Bulgarians, while citizens from the Czech Republic require an electronic travel authorization (eTA) before entering Canada. The United States requires visas from residents of Croatia, Cyprus, and Poland in addition to Bulgaria and Romania.

The proposed regulation would allow the Commission to temporarily suspend the EU’s own visa exemptions on foreign countries if they didn’t lift their visa requirements.

“Our goal remains the full reciprocal visa waiver with our strategic partners, and we are working constructively with them with this in mind,” the EC spokesperson said.

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Gar Pardy, a former director of consular affairs bureau at Global Affairs, said the move is part of a long–running issue between the EU and its North American counterparts.

READ MORE: New visa requirements for Canadians travelling to South Africa

“There is not going to be a visa war,” Pardy told Global News. “The commission is just trying to back up their policy with some discussion.”

The EU has made past attempts to push Ottawa and Washington to treat travellers from all its member states equally. In December 2013, a law went into effect requiring EU countries to have a common response to visa matters and in 2014 the Commission threatened again to increase scrutiny of US and Canadian travellers.

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Pardy said given the millions of Canadians who visit Europe each year he doesn’t see the visa requirement happening.

“If [the Europeans] are going to stop the Canadians and the Americans from going into Europe … then in effect all they are doing is hurting themselves,” he said. “This is nothing more than I think a shot across the bow.”

The EU has given Canada an ultimatum: Canada has until Tuesday to “comply with the EU’s Visa Reciprocity Mechanism,” Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson Jennifer Bourque said in an email.

“Canada’s visa policy is not based on reciprocity. Rather, Canada must be satisfied that countries meet its criteria for a visa exemption,” Bourque wrote. “Canada remains committed to extending visa-free travel to all Europeans as soon as possible.”

According to Reuters, the debate over visas comes at an awkward time as U.S. President Barack Obama is set to arrive in Europe next week to close the transatlantic trade agreement before Obama leaves office in Jan. 2017.

 *Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify that citizens from the Czech Republic do not require a visa to enter Canada, but do require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).