Canadian media: Czech visas lifted for EU trade agreement
The lifting of Canadian visas for Czech citizens, according to the Canadian press, is linked to a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. The Globe and Mail reported on 14 November that the Czech Republic had made it clear that it might not ratify the agreement unless the visa requirement was lifted.
The Canadian media is also reporting that the lifting of the visas last Thursday was made possible by the introduction of a new asylum system in Canada. Ottawa reimposed visas four years ago because of a rise in the number of asylum claims filed by Romani people from the Czech Republic.
The Globe and Mail reported that the visa was considered a complication in the negotiations with the European Union which led to October's CETA trade agreement. The National Post also reported that "The Central European country said it would not ratify the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union unless Canada lifted the visas."
“This obviously relates to the conclusion of the Canada-Europe comprehensive trade agreement, but also to the hard work that has been done on both sides,” said Chris Alexander, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Progress between the two countries had “restored trust to the point where this is the right thing to do, and we’re very pleased to see the announcement,” he added.
The lifting of visas for Czech citizens was welcomed by the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC). "These measures serve to expand tourism, trade and travel between Canada and Europe," NACC head Marc-André O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke called on the current government of Canada to relax travel restrictions for other countries where possible. Canada reinstated visas for the Czech Republic and Mexico in 2009.
In the Czech case, the visa reinstatement was expedited by a rise in asylum applications from members of the Romani community. The Globe and Mail reports that since then the asylum system has been changed to accelerate the handling of asylum requests and deter "abuse" of the system.
Citizens of Mexico still need a visa to enter Canada. Of the EU countries, citizens of Bulgaria and Romania still need visas as well.
Canada is working with those three countries to lift the visas, but Alexander says no agreement is on the horizon. "It has to be said the work with Romania and Bulgaria, as with our partners in Latin America, is not as far advanced as it was with the Czech Republic,” the minister told The Globe and Mail.
The Toronto Star reports that since 2009, Canada has issued about 8 000 visas annually to citizens of the Czech Republic, approving approximately 98 % of visa requests. The number of asylum applications filed by Czech citizens has fallen from 2 200 to 70 per year.
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