European Commission

European Commission Launches Consultation Process to Strengthen EU’s Visa-Free Travel Regimes

The European Commission has taken a significant step towards enhancing the monitoring and effectiveness of the European Union’s visa-free travel regimes. In a Communication on Tuesday, the Commission outlined a consultation process to address the challenges posed by irregular migration and security issues within these regimes.


The Communication focuses on the Visa Suspension Mechanism, as outlined in Article 8 of the Visa Regulation. Its primary objective is to enable the temporary suspension of visa exemptions in the event of a sudden and substantial increase in irregular migration or security risks.

President Ursula von der Leyen had previously emphasized the need for the Commission to intensify its monitoring of visa policy alignment and present a comprehensive report that would pave the way for legislative proposals to amend the visa suspension mechanism. Following today’s Communication, the Commission has initiated a consultation process to fulfill these objectives.

While visa-free travel offers significant economic, social, and cultural benefits to both EU Member States and third countries, recent years have revealed the challenges arising from such travel, particularly concerning migration and security. Insufficient alignment with EU visa policies has resulted in certain visa-free countries becoming transit hubs for irregular entries into the EU. The Western Balkans, for instance, experienced an increase in irregular arrivals in 2022 due to visa-free entries by nationals from countries that require visas for the EU. This issue was promptly addressed through extensive communication and cooperation between the Commission and Western Balkans partners, leading to substantial progress in visa alignment and subsequent reduction in irregular arrivals to the EU.


Furthermore, the Commission has identified security risks associated with investor citizenship schemes operated by visa-free third countries. These schemes raise concerns related to organized crime infiltration, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption within the EU. By acquiring citizenship in visa-free countries, non-EU nationals can enter the EU without undergoing the EU short-stay visa procedure.

To effectively address these challenges and mitigate risks, the Commission emphasizes the need to reassess and improve existing rules governing the monitoring of visa-free regimes and the suspension of visa exemptions.

The Communication signals the launch of a consultation process involving the European Parliament and the Council to determine the most effective means of enhancing the EU’s visa suspension mechanism. Potential revisions to the rules may include the introduction of new grounds for suspension to address emerging risks, adjustments to the thresholds for triggering the mechanism, streamlining and increasing the flexibility of the suspension procedure, and strengthening monitoring and reporting provisions.

Moving forward, the Commission will engage in discussions with the European Parliament and the Council to strengthen the visa policy toolbox through a revised Visa Suspension Mechanism. Based on these discussions, a legislative proposal revising the mechanism will be presented by the Commission in autumn 2023.

Currently, the EU has visa-free travel agreements with 61 non-EU countries. Among these, 25 countries have visa waiver agreements with the EU, and eight have obtained visa exemptions through successful visa liberalization dialogues. The remaining countries received visa exemption based on the harmonization of EU rules. Additionally, Kosovo is set to receive visa exemption as of 1 January 2024 at the latest, following the completion of a successful visa liberalization dialogue.

Chale Wote
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