EU ministers push forward ’emergency brake’ for visa-free travel

Ministers have announced tougher rules for visa-free travel in the wake of the EU-Turkey deal that could affect future visa agreements.

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Visa free travel Klaas Dijkhoff

Ministers at the Council of the European Union announced plans for an ’emergency brake’ on visa-free travel, after France and Germany proposed curbing travel if too many citizens overstayed in the Schengen Zone.

The proposals, which will be negotiated with the European Parliament, will apply to all existing visa agreements.

“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.” said Klaas Dijkhoff, Minister for Migration of the Netherlands and President of the Council.

Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens was key demand of the Turkey-EU deal that returns migrants from Greece to Turkey.

Under current rules, citizens of countries with visa-free travel agreements are allowed to stay in the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days without a formal visa.

The proposal doesn’t cover travel to the UK or Ireland, who do not participate in the Schengen Zone.

Travel restrictions for all, but aimed at Turkey

The ’emergency brake’ is seen as a way to enforce visa-free agreements, which often include other arrangements such as economic guarantees and security policies. Turkey has 72 requirements to meet the visa-free travel agreement, including issuing biometric passports and reaffirming human rights. Recently, Turkey threatened to cancel the migrant deal if visa liberalisation wasn’t implemented.

But Germany and France wanted the Commission to have a blocking method.

An increase in the number of people overstaying their 90 day period, an uptick in asylum applications, or an rise in rejected applications from a country could all trigger the emergency brake.

While the rules encompass all visa-free countries – which include nations like the US, Australia, and Japan – the new rules are aimed toward Turkey, as there has been much criticism over the liberalisation of the Schengen visa policy.

If passed by the European Council, the ’emergency brake’ would require a single member state to raise the issue, and a simple majority of member states to agree for the suspension to begin.