The European Union on Wednesday said Colombia fulfills the requisites necessary for its citizens to enter the Schengen zone without a visa.
Two reports were released on Wednesday after the completion of a risk analysis carried out by the European Commission (EC) which took into account criteria such as the potential threat of illegal immigration, the impact on public order and safety, economic benefits or effects on tourism and foreign trade.
“The significant improvements accomplished by Colombia and Peru in many areas in recent years mean that it is no longer justified to maintain a visa obligation on citizens of these countries visiting the Schengen area for short stays. By abolishing the visa obligation we will be fostering mobility and people-to-people contacts – something that is fundamental to reinforce the social and economic development and mutual understanding between the EU and other countries”, said Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Home Affairs, EC
|Countries in Schengen Area|
After obtaining the approval of the EU Parliament and the Council, the EC will negotiate an agreement with Colombia and Peru for its citizens to travel to EU territory for a period of less than 90 days without a visa.
The EC completed the evaluation in coordination with European agencies such as the European Asylum Support Office ( EASO ) , the European Police Office (Europol ) and the European external borders agency Frontex and the EU offices in Bogota and Lima in addition to local authorities in both countries.
The next step
These reports will be forwarded to the European Parliament and the EU Council, which must give the green light to start negotiations on the deal, expected in the first quarter of 2015, according to a statement by the EC.
Brussels predicted that the new travel freedoms could come into force at the earliest, in the second half of 2015.
The new freedoms would allow Colombians to travel to the Schengen area which is made up 22 of the 28 countries of the European Union plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein from outside of the EU.
The findings of the EC Risk Assessment from press release
The main conclusions of the reports are the following: trust in visa applicants of both countries is on the rise, with low visa refusal rates; irregular migration is at relatively low levels; security of travel documents is sufficient; security threats have receded; organised crime groups are currently not assessed as a significant threat to the EU (with the exception of drug trafficking); economic opportunities, including enlarged trade and touristic flows, are expanding in parallel with significant growth of the Colombian and Peruvian economies; human rights and fundamental freedoms are now much better protected and respected in these countries than in the past; visa reciprocity will be ensured as these countries already exempt all EU citizens from the visa obligation; and the visa-free regime will further strengthen the relationship between the EU and the two countries, especially since the (provisional) application of free trade agreements in 2013.
The general positive assessments do not ignore that there exist certain risks, including possible increases in the use of drug couriers and in trafficked people as well as in the number of Colombians and Peruvians who enter the EU legally and who would overstay, thus becoming irregular migrants.
These risks are nevertheless considered to be manageable, in particular through a correct implementation of border checks, with reinforced means if necessary, at the airports through which most Colombians and Peruvians reach the Schengen area’s external borders.