Brussels, 20th January 2015 // The European Youth Forum is extremely disappointed to see that the European Council has taken a backward step from the aim of a better visa regime in its recently published position on the proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and of residence for third-country nationals. The Council’s position limits mobility to certain groups and could mean that delays and barriers to moving into and within Europe will remain.
The Visa Directive refers to different groups, such as those travelling for research, studies, exchanges, training, volunteering or working as an au pair. The Council’s position, however, is that EU Member States will only have to apply the directive to researchers and students and it will be only optional for volunteers, pupils, trainees and au pairs. The Youth Forum believes that this restriction unfairly discriminates against many young people who travel for, for example, student exchanges, youth work or to take part in volunteer projects and opportunities for training, which have a significant benefit for them and for wider society.
Young people from outside the EU have a key role to play in creating social, cultural and economic links between the EU and other regions and countries. In reducing the Directive to only these few groups, the Council demonstrates that it does not value the benefits of intercultural learning and understanding that volunteers and pupils obtain from doing an exchange or activity in Europe.
Furthermore, the Council is calling for a further restriction to intra-EU mobility: the provision in the European Commission proposal and the European Parliament’s position, allowing for the free movement within the EU of third-country nationals that already have authorisation to live in one EU country, has been removed.
Further regressive steps outlined in the Council’s position include:
· Visa fees have not been waived but ‘should not be proportionate or excessive’;
· The deadline for responding to visa applications is 90 days, as opposed to the 60 in the proposal from the European Commission and the 30 proposed in the report from the European Parliament;
The Youth Forum strongly urges the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, in their upcoming negotiations on the Directive, to restore its scope as originally proposed, and to thoroughly examine whether or not, in its current form from the Council, it will achieve any of the objectives for which a Revision was necessary in the first place.
Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, comments:
“The European Youth Forum is extremely disappointed to see this very weak and regressive position from the Council, particularly after the European Parliament took a much more positive stance in its report. We fear that anti-immigration rhetoric, which has been on the rise in recent years across Europe, has shamefully influenced this Directive. Exchange programmes and volunteering, studying or training abroad offer young people an unrivalled opportunity to gain skills and a greater understanding of other countries and cultures, whilst also encouraging social and economic links to be built between the EU and other regions. This proposal will unfairly hinder such opportunities for many young people. ”