As of December 2011, the Schengen Area consists of the following EU States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary,
Facilitating the travel of non-EU nationals to the EU has a considerable impact on the economy as a whole. With 18.8 million jobs in 2011, tourism has become one of the biggest generators of employment in the European Union. The Communication adopted today looks at ways to make sure that the visa rules help the EU to remain an attractive destination, in particular for those countries presenting a high tourist generating potential.
At the same time, two proposal in the area of visa policies were adopted.
Firstly citizens from 16 Caribbean and Pacific Island Nations should soon be able to travel to the Schengen area without needing a visa. The objective is to simplify travel to the Schengen area, as well as to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania for citizens of these countries. The Commission's proposal foresees that the visa exemption will be reciprocated through visa waiver agreements, ensuring a full visa free regime for all EU citizens who wish to travel to these countries.
Today the Commission also adopted a report on the functioning of 'Local Schengen Cooperation'. The report evaluates the first two years of implementation of the EU Visa Code and makes concrete recommendations for how cooperation can be improved, particularly on the harmonisation of practices.