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EU mulls visas for Canadian tourists

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14:54 CEST+02:00
Speaking for the European Union presidency, Swedish migration minister Tobias Billström said on Wednesday that the EU supported requiring visas for Canadians travelling to the EU in response to Canada's decision to impose visa restrictions on Czech nationals.

"As the presidency of the EU, we are in favour of this reciprocity," Swedish Migration and Asylum Policy Minister Tobias Billström told AFP.

"But it's up to the Commission to handle the proposal, because the Commission is responsible for the reciprocity mechanism," he added.

Canada imposed visas on Czechs to stave off what it said was a steady influx of Roma asylum applicants from the former communist country.

The Czech government reacted to Canada's decision on Tuesday by introducing visas for Canadian diplomats and recalling its ambassador in Canada for consultations, but it cannot impose visas on all Canadians under EU laws.

Czech authorities were also annoyed that the European Commission did not appear to be in any rush to impose visa requirements on Canadian nationals during the summer holidays.

Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday chided the EU over reducing the options of retaliating against Canada for imposing visas on Czechs.

"As you well know, Canada can decide and the Czech Republic cannot. It's Brussels that has to decide for us," he added.

At the European parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed regret about Canada's decision to re-introduce visas for Czech nationals.

The Canadian move, which also affected Mexico, is a bid to crack down on an explosion in the number of fraudulent refugee claims.

"We'll do all necessary efforts to restore the visa free travel," he told lawmakers.

"The Commission will examine the situation carefully and report on this" in a visa reciprocity report due out in September this year, he said.

He said Czech, Canadian and Commission officials had met already Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the matter.

Billström and Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask will on Thursday and Friday host an informal meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Stockholm.

A solidarity clause within the EU allows all member states to impose visas on Canadian citizens who want to travel to Europe. But the procedure is lengthy, not automatic.

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