OTTAWA – There is still more work to be done before the visa dispute between Canada and the European Union can be resolved, Immigration Minister John McCallum said Tuesday.
“We have not offered full visa lift but we have offered something called Canada plus, which is easier access for regular travellers,” McCallum said.
European Union nations and lawmakers have been told to begin urgent talks on how to respond to the failure of Canada, the U.S. and Brunei to extend visa-free travel to citizens of all of the union’s 28 member states.
The European Commission invited them Tuesday “to urgently launch discussions and to take a position on the most appropriate way forward” within three months.
The talks could lead to visa requirements being imposed on travellers from the three countries.
In Canada’s case, that is because it demands visas for travellers from Romania and Bulgaria.
The U.S. requires visas for travellers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.
Top EU interior affairs official Dimitris Avramopoulos pledged to continue visa talks with Canada, the U.S. and Brunei.
“Full visa reciprocity will stay high on the agenda of our bilateral relations with these countries and we will continue pursuing a balanced and fair outcome,” said Avramopoulos.
McCallum said the EU’s demand for full visa reciprocity is something that has to be negotiated.
“There are various processes that are complex within the European Union,” he said.
“I don’t know for sure how close we are on that,” he added. “At the end of the day, we’ll find a resolution, but we are not there yet.”
Because of various EU rules, it could be several months before a visa requirement would go into effect. But the political fallout from the ongoing dispute is surfacing in a year when Canada and the EU hope to finally ratify their landmark free-trade deal.
McCallum said he’s not concerned how the dispute might affect the trade agreement, saying that is a separate issue.
The U.S. and the EU have also embarked on their own free-trade negotiations.
The European Parliament and commission will have four months to block the visa move if a majority vote in either of those bodies fails to uphold it.
The issue has not crept up on Canada because the required two-year notice of the non-reciprocity action was published in EU journals on April 12, 2014.
McCallum said Canadian officials are heavily engaged in talks with Romania, Bulgaria and the European Commission.
—with files from the Associated Press