Colombians could see their bid to remove bureaucratic restrictions on European visas approved in the European Union (EU) Parliament as soon as next January, according to Luis de Grandes Pascual.
Pascual, a parliamentary representative from Spain who supports the bill that would allow Colombians to enter freely into Europe without the need for a prior visa, told reporters Monday that a recent comittee vote in favor of the measure was a “gigantic step” toward establishing free transit between Colombia and Europe.
According to Pascual, “the process could end in January, or it might delay a bit longer. But either way, we want a vote in the General Assembly before the end of the year.”
A bill passed in the General Assembly would still require approval by the EU Commission and European Council, said Pascual, but early indications have given him “total confidence that the process will culminate in success.”
Colombia, which already shares a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, has been trying for some time to achieve the free transit status enjoyed by United States and other international citizens.
While there has been strong support within the European Parliament behind loosening restrictions on visiting Colombians, such a measure has been impeded by other factions, largely over security concerns.
With that in mind, Pascual also indicated that it would be best for Colombia to stay the course in ongoing peace negotiations with the FARC rebel group in Havana, which have shown some signs of falling apart or being placed on hold as national elections approach.
“We have a determined fear that the electoral event in one way or another could produce a pause that never reinitiates. We would like for the process not to stop,” said Pascual.
Pascual will be among the parliamentarians meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday to discuss progress on the visa issue. On Wednesday, the group will also travel to Medellin to meet with the city mayor.