Commission proposes to reform the EU's common visa policy and adopts progress report on migration; continuation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey
The Commission proposed today to reform the EU's common visa policy to adapt the rules to evolving security concerns, challenges linked to migration and new opportunities offered by technological developments.
The proposed changes to the Visa Code will make it easier for legitimate travellers to obtain a visa to come to Europe, facilitating tourism, trade and business, whilst strengthening security and mitigating irregular migration risks – updating the rules to make them more efficient and fit for purpose to respond to new and emerging challenges.
Among the changes are faster and more flexible procedures, including the possibility to apply for visas 6 months in advance of a planned trip, the reduction of the processing time of visa applications to 10 days, electronic filling and signing of the application, harmonised rules and longer validity for multiple entry visas. The Commission also proposed to step up the joint EU efforts on return and readmission by making better use of the leverage of the EU's common visa policy. Today's amendments to the Visa Code is the first step of the reform of the common EU visa policy – a proposal to update the Visa Information System (VIS) will follow in spring this year.
Ahead of the March European Council, the Commission reported today on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration and set out further key actions to be taken, including as set out in the Commission's roadmap from December 2017 towards a comprehensive deal on migration by June 2018.
The decrease in irregular arrivals has been confirmed throughout 2017 and the first months of 2018, while work is ongoing to save lives, tackle root causes, protect Europe's external borders, and further strengthen cooperation with international partners. However, with the overall situation remaining fragile, additional efforts, notably stepped up financial resources, will be needed jointly from the Member States and the EU to ensure a continued, effective response to the migration challenge.
With 205 000 irregular border crossings in 2017, arrivals to the EU were 28% lower than in 2014, the year before the crisis. Pressure on national migration systems, while decreasing, remains at a high level with 685,000 asylum applications lodged in 2017.
Work along the Central Mediterranean route has been further accelerated with a strong focus on saving lives, protecting migrants along the route and voluntary return and reintegration in countries of origin.
The EU-Turkey Statement continues to deliver results with irregular and dangerous arrivals remaining 97% down on the period before the Statement became operational.
More than two years on, the EU relocation scheme is successfully coming to an end. Almost 34,000 persons – more than 96% of all eligible applicants registered – have been relocated with almost all Member States contributing. Transfers for the remaining applicants (149 in Greece, 933 in Italy) are being prepared. The EU resettlement scheme adopted in July 2015 was also successfully completed in 2017 with a total of 19,432 vulnerable persons brought safely to Europe and resettlements under the EU-Turkey Statement continue. Under the Commission's new resettlement scheme, designed for at least 50,000 refugees, 19 Member States have pledged almost 40,000 places so far.
Following through on its commitment to support Syrian refugees in Turkey, the European Commission is today mobilising additional funding for the Facility for Refugees which has so far given 500.000 children access to education and is supporting 1.2 million refugees with monthly cash transfers.
Today's decision establishes the legal framework for the second tranche of €3 billion, as foreseen in the EU-Turkey Statement, mobilising €1 billion from the EU budget. The first tranche of the Facility set up in 2016 was made up of €1 billion from the EU budget and €2 billion from Member States' contributions. The Commission proposes to continue this arrangement, so that the successful and effective work of the Facility for projects benefiting refugees in Turkey can continue.
14 March 2018