EU discusses visa requirements for US citizens

The EU is examining whether it wants to request a visa from American tourists again. The debate provides new arguments for EU critics in Switzerland.

It sounds like a joke, but the process is real: the European Union (EU) is examining the reintroduction of visas for citizens of the United States and Canada. So far, Americans and Canadians have been able to stay in the Schengen area, including Switzerland, for 90 days without a visa if they are not working. The visa requirement is now on the agenda for the meeting of the EU Commissioners next Tuesday in Strasbourg. A commission spokeswoman confirmed corresponding American media reports in Brussels on Friday.

The process may seem strange, because with the introduction of a visa requirement, the EU would cut itself into its own flesh: 12 million Americans travel to Europe every year, the EU is the most important place for Americans to make direct investments abroad, every year the economic areas were worth more than CHF 700 billion. And should the EU now scatter sand in this well-oiled machinery?

Law requires return carriage

All signs indicate that this will not happen in the end. However, according to the spokeswoman, a new legal basis from 2014 obliges the EU Commission to propose a temporary visa requirement. The background is that the EU basically only waives this if the other country also allows all EU citizens to enter without a visa. Canada requires visas from Romanians and Bulgarians, the USA also from Croatians, Poles and Cypriots. Canada justifies this with reservations regarding the counterfeit security of passports, border protection and human rights.

The EU Commission has been trying to change the minds of the United States and Canada for more than a year. “We are having a constructive conversation,” said the spokeswoman. Because this has so far not been possible, European law is now forcing the Commission to prepare a return carriage. The Americans, however, are not going to be impressed by this: EU countries are likely to prevent the visa requirement from economic interests. Switzerland also hopes for this. If the EU were to require visas from Americans and Canadians again, Switzerland would have to join in – it has been a member of the Schengen area since 2008 and is therefore integrated into the EU visa policy. She cannot have a say, just have a say. And the USA is an even more important tourism partner for Switzerland than for the EU: Last year, Americans were the second most important tourist group behind Germans; Americans booked more than one in ten overnight stays. If they needed a visa for the Schengen area, Switzerland would be hit hard.

Do the advantages outweigh?

“The Schengen system doesn’t work that way,” says SVP National Councilor Roland Büchel, President of the Foreign Policy Commission. “Schengen is a large area in which the interests of the countries in issuing visas are very different,” says Büchel. The discussion on US visas is evidence of the weaknesses of the pact. «At first you were euphoric. But the disadvantages of these contracts and agreements are now becoming apparent in everyday life, »says Büchel. Unlike the hardliner in the party, he wants to maintain bilateral I between Switzerland and the EU. “But I see Schengen-Dublin as a problematic contract,” says Büchel.

The advantages of Schengen would outweigh, countered the CVP foreign politician Kathy Riklin. “It is worth a lot for tourism that Chinese and Indians only need a visa for the whole of Europe,” says Riklin. Switzerland also benefits from Schengen in the security area. The Europe-wide database of the Schengen Information System and cooperation with the EU made it possible to track down criminals faster than it would be possible to do it alone.

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