On April 1st, the European Commission adopted a revision of the visa code for non EU travellers visiting countries located within the Schengen area. Carlo Corazza, spokesperson of Antonio Tajani, EU Commissioner responsible for Enterprise and Industry, tells to TDN Asia what the travel industry and travellers can expect.
TravelDailyNews : What will be the calendar of new visa rules implementation over the next few months?
Carlo Corazza : The proposal for a revision of the Visa Code was adopted by the European Commission on April 1st, 2014 and has been since submitted to the European Parliament and the Council for examination. However, due to the imminent elections for the European Parliament, work is likely to start in the European Parliament only after summer.
TDN : When would it be finally adopted and implemented for non EU travellers?
C.C. : We cannot really predict when the proposal will be adopted. However once endorsed, the regulation will only become applicable six months after publication of the text adopted by both European Parliament and Council in the Official Journal.
TDN : Which markets are the most concerned by the new rules? Will the rules differ from one continent to another, from one country to another?
C.C. : The Visa Code applies universally to all third country nationals subject to the visa obligation. These are listed in an Annex to Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001.
TDN : Are e-visas part of the package?
C.C. : No, they are not. The Schengen visa will continue to take the form of a visa sticker. However, Member States already make increasingly use of electronic means in the application process. In fact, one of the proposed amendments looks at exempting travellers already registered in our Visa Information System (VIS) database from having to lodge their application in person.
TDN : Will the visa rule be valid uniquely to Schengen countries or for all EU members?
C.C. : The common visa policy is applied by 22 Member States and 4 associated states°.
TDN : Could visa new rules still be rejected by EU members?
C.C. : We can expect that parts of the text might be altered following the Commission proposal.
TDN : Will some Asian countries eventually be exempted of visa or will they be able to obtain a visa on arrivals? For now they are only five to six Asian countries which are not submitted to a Schengen visa. Could it be more in the near future?
C.C. : Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001, which sets out the lists of third countries subject or exempted to a visa, is regularly revised. The future Visa Code only covers the rules and procedures for issuing visas.
TDN : What would be the likely impact on Asian travellers? Are they any concrete numbers in terms of the potential of tourist arrivals once visa facilitation rules are implemented?
C.C. : In the last four years, the number of applications for a Schengen visa increased by 68%. It even increased by 150% for China during the same period. It already shows the increase in the number of travellers already under the current legislation. According to the draft forecast by UNWTO, Asian outbound will have the most rapid growth pace through 2025, corresponding to 5,4%, and flows projected to the EU are 26 million in 2020, 30 million in 2025, and 34 million in 2030. If the rules we have proposed are adopted, it will be easier to capture these flows.
TDN : What will be the economic impact of visa relaxation?
C.C. : First of all the term 'visa relaxation' is misleading. The leitmotiv of the proposal for a revision of the Visa Code is only a facilitation of procedures. To obtain a visa, the applicant must fulfil the established and unchanged entry conditions. However, according to a study carried out by the Commission in 2013 on the economic impact of short stay visa facilitation, the number of travellers still deterred to visit the Schengen area with the current visa system reached more than 6.6 million in 2012, and this for only six major origin markets, namely Russia, Ukraine, China, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.
This figure represents a significant direct, indirect and induced lost contribution to GDP, estimated to range between €4.2 billion and €12.6 billion per year. The experts have calculated that not reaching these visitors translates into a total number of direct and indirect lost jobs of 80,000 and 250,000 in the Schengen area from both direct and indirect effects in the Schengen Area. If we consider that these impressive figures only relate to six countries, although they represent more or less two thirds of the visa applicants, it is quite easy to predict that more flexible and ‘smarter’ rules will have a huge impact on the European economy.
° More information under http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/visa-policy/index_en.htm