The European Union could temporarily reintroduce visas for some travellers from outside the bloc in case of a sudden influx of migrants from a specific country, under plans presented by the EU executive.
The proposal addresses concerns by some EU governments about a sharp increase in asylum seekers from the western Balkans, where countries won the right to visa-free travel to the 25 member states of Europe’s border-free Shengen area.
It also reflects a growing reluctance in Europe to keep its borders open at a time when turmoil in North Africa is driving thousands of people to seek refuge and jobs in the EU, while public opinion grows hostile to newcomers, Reuters reports.
The European Commission said new rules would allow EU member governments to quickly restore visas in case of a “high inflow of irregular migrants or a sudden increase of unfounded asylum requests from a third country.”
“Establishing a safeguard clause will help to preserve the integrity of the visa liberalisation processes and to build credibility vis-a-vis the public,” the executive said in a statement.
Under current laws it could take up to a few years to change visa rules. The proposed changes need to be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament.
EU governments granted visa-free travel to citizens of Bosnia and Albania at the end of 2010, a year after visitors from Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia saw travel restrictions eased, as part of EU policies of stabilising the Balkans.