To facilitate travelling for tourists willing to visit Europe, and to spend their time and money, is crucial for our economy, and this is particularly important in a time of crisis, like the one that we are experiencing now. The amount of visa applications for the EU continues to grow. We saw an increase of 32% between 2009 and 2011. More than 13 millions of visas are issued in a year. At the same time, estimations demonstrate that 21% of potential tourists refrain from going to the EU because of visa requirements. To apply for a visa is, in some countries, a complex procedure which is often problematical and slow due to an outdated system.
Estimations, carried out by the World Travel and Tourism Council , indicate that the Schengen area could increase the number of tourists with 46 millions by 2015, if visa regulations were more flexile. Such an increase in tourism would boost the income in the tourism industry with 60 billion Euros and create 500 000 new jobs.
I’m therefore happy that I, today, got my colleagues to agree on my proposal for a strategic communication on how visa policy can stimulate growth. Much can be done in order to facilitate travelling for tourists to come to Europe. To start with, a correct implementation of the current visa regulation, e.g. the requirement of maximum 15 days waiting period for a decision. On a longer term, the process will need to be made more efficient and shorter, applications form will have to be simplified and the rules clarified. You can see the press conference here.
The Commission also decided on a Schengen report containing concrete and local measures that can be applied in consulates around the world in order to facilitate the visa procedure. For example, the harmonisation of the list of required documents for the visa applications, as a means of avoiding that consulates have different requirements. It is important that we have the same rules, in part because our treatment of persons wanting to go to Europe is central, and also because the procedure must be transparent and equal.
To the good news today we can add that 16 countries in the Caribbean and Pacific will be included on the list of countries whose citizens do not need a visa.