This page contains a limited version of this dossier in the EU Monitor.
|dossier||COM(2022)531 - Suspension in whole of the application of the Agreement with Vanuatu on the short-stay visa waiver.|
The Republic of Vanuatu is listed in Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 1 among the third countries whose nationals are exempt from the requirement to be in possession of a visa when crossing the external borders of the Member States for stays of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.
The exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of Vanuatu is applicable since 28 May 2015, when the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Vanuatu on the short-stay visa waiver (‘the Agreement’) was signed and started to apply on a provisional basis in accordance with Article 8(1) of the Agreement. The Agreement entered into force on 1 April 2017.
Since 25 May 2015, Vanuatu has operated investor citizenship schemes that present public policy and security risks for the EU Member States. In particular, these schemes allow visa-required third-country nationals to easily obtain the nationality of a visa-free country, thus enabling them to bypass the Schengen visa procedure and gain visa-free access to the EU.
The Commission assessed the investor citizenship schemes operated by Vanuatu and concluded that such schemes represent an increased risk to the internal security of the Member States. The assessment also concluded that Vanuatu’s investor citizenship schemes could allow third-country nationals to circumvent the Union short-stay visa procedure and the assessment of security and migratory risks it entails.
In accordance with Article 8 i of the Agreement, Parties can suspend it in whole or in part for reasons of public policy or the protection of national security.
In light of the above, the Commission adopted, on 12 January 2022, a proposal for a Council decision to partially suspend the application of the Agreement. The decision was adopted by the Council on 3 March 2022. The suspension is limited to ordinary passports issued as of 25 May 2015, when the number of successful applicants under Vanuatu’s investor citizenship schemes started to increase significantly.
Following the partial suspension of the Agreement by Council Decision (EU) 2022/366, in accordance with Article 8(2)(d), 8(3) and 8(6) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806, the Commission concluded that the granting of citizenship by Vanuatu under its investor citizenship schemes constitutes an increased risk to the internal security and public policy of the Member States and decided that action is needed. On the basis of Article 8(6)(a) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806, the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/693 on the temporary suspension of the visa exemption for nationals of Vanuatu was adopted, with regard to holders of ordinary passports issued by Vanuatu as of 25 May 2015, and applicable from 4 May 2022 to 3 February 2023 2 .
Following the entry into force of the suspension of the exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of Vanuatu on 4 May 2022, and in accordance with Article 8(6)(a), last sub-paragraph, of Regulation (EU) 2018/1806, the Commission has launched an enhanced dialogue with Vanuatu with a view to remedy the situation that gave rise to the temporary suspension of the visa exemption.
On 12 May 2022, the kick-off meeting of this dialogue was held, where both parties agreed to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution. The Commission proposed, to this end, to hold monthly technical meetings. Vanuatu agreed to appoint an interlocutor and communicate on this with the Commission, in order to proceed with the subsequent technical meetings. However, notwithstanding reminders sent by the Commission on 1 June and 23 June 2022, Vanuatu has not provided the Commission with any follow-up contacts or information.
In September 2022, the Commission’s services received an update from Vanuatu’s representatives on the political situation of the country, with the Parliament having been dissolved on 18 August 2022 and general elections scheduled to take place on 13 October 2022. In this context, Vanuatu’s representatives explained that any decision on the continuation of the dialogue with the Commission would have to await the results of the general elections and the formation of a new government.
Vanuatu has not taken measures in view of remedying the circumstances that led to the temporary suspension of the visa exemption, and thus the increased risk to the internal security and public policy of the Member States persists. At the same time, the Commission considers that Vanuatu does not act engage in a dialogue with the Union. Thus, the Commission considers that a suspension in whole of the Agreement is required.
Therefore, Council Decision (EU) 2022/366 should be replaced by a Council Decision on the suspension in whole of the application of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Vanuatu on the short-stay visa waiver.