The short-stay visa waiver agreements were signed today in a ceremony that took place in Brussels with the participation, from the EC side, of Vice-President Jacques Barrot (from the Commission) and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Helena Bambasová (from the Czech Presidency) and representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius, Barbados and Seychelles.
Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, declared: " Today the first ever visa waiver agreements concluded by the European Community are signed. As from today the nationals of Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius, Barbados and Seychelles and the citizens of the EU can travel without a short-stay visa to each others' territories. I hope the visa-free travel will contribute to the improvement of people to people contacts between the citizens of both parties. "
The agreements provide for visa-free travel for the citizens of the European Union and for the citizens of the six countries - holders of all passports (diplomatic, service and ordinary) - between their territories for stays not exceeding three months. The agreements cover all categories of travellers, except for the category of persons travelling for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity, for whom each Member State and also the six countries remain free to impose the visa requirement in accordance with applicable Community or national law.
In order to make citizens benefit from the visa-free travel as soon as possible, the agreements are provisionally applied from the date of today's signature, 28 May 2009.
About 800.000 European citizens travel to these countries per year.
Council Regulation (EC) 1932/2006 amended Council Regulation (EC) 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders of the European Union (negative list), and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (positive list) by - inter alia - transferring six third countries from the negative to the positive list. These are Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Seychelles. However, the Regulation made the implementation of the exemptions from the visa requirement for nationals of these countries depending on the entry into force of bilateral visa waiver agreements to be concluded between the European Community and each of the countries concerned.
The mandates for negotiation with the six countries were adopted by the Council on 5 June 2008. The formal negotiations on visa waiver Agreements were opened in July 2008 separately with each of the six countries. The negotiations were completed on 16 October 2008 and the six Agreements were initialled on 12 and 19 November 2008.