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Analysis: European Union Should Grant Fiji Visa-Free Access

Analysis: European Union Should Grant Fiji Visa-Free Access
From left: European Union Ambassador to Fiji and Pacific Julian Wilson, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, and French Ambassador to Fiji Sujiro Seam during the third high level EU Political Dialogue Forum at Suvavou House in Suva on May 23, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar
May 24
12:45 2018

It seems unfair that Fiji is one of only two countries in the Pacific whose citizens cannot get visa free entry to the 28-member countries of the European Union.

Currently, countries like Kiribati, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu have already been given visa free entry.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday raised the issue in his opening remarks at the Fiji-EU Third Enhanced Political Dialogue in Suva.

In May 2016, the then EU Head of Delegation for the Pacific Ambassador Andrew Jacobs said Fijians might be able to visit 28 European countries without the need for a visa from 2017.

He said then Fiji and PNG were not so far partners to this agreement. He said the EU was working on that. He said that would come sometime in the future.

He said, “our colleagues in Brussels are working on the migration issue rather have their hands full at the moment with the migration challenges in Europe, but our intention also is to extend this visa waiver scheme into Fiji in due course”.

Yesterday the current Head of EU Delegation for the Pacific Ambassador Julian Wilson in his speech said they were now looking into the matter.

But, Mr Bainimarama said, three years ago Fiji raised this issue with the EU, yet yesterday they could not report that any progress had been made.

Over the years, Fiji built its relationships with the EU – relationships that had benefitted many Fijians and Europeans.

When Fijian officials met their EU counterparts in Brussels in 2016, they pushed for the visa waiver.

But the EU officials said no definite time had been set to when they would consider Fiji’s inclusion in visa-free access.

They told journalists that a review of Fiji’s inclusion into the scheme was not high on their agenda. The review is done every three years. The last one was done in 2012 where the application of Samoa, Tonga and Palau were considered.

The next review was to be undertaken in 2015. However, with the migration issue high on their agenda, the review was not done. The 2015 review of the list of countries was not done.

It was indicated then that the review could happen soon. Now it’s 2018 and the EU is still looking into it.

The other issue that was complicating the matter in 2016 was the indication that France would stop processing Schengen State visas – the visa required to travel to EU member countries at its Suva embassy. Then last year it happened. The embassy was downgraded and core functions including the visa processing were shifted to Vanuatu.

EU officials in Brussels had unsuccessfully lobbied for France not to stop the processing of visas in Suva.

Currently, Fiji allows visa free access to all 28 EU member states including France.

We hope that with the strengthening of relations between French president Emmanuel Macron and Mr Bainimarama, particularly on climate change, France will review its position.

At the same time we expect the rest of EU to come to the party on reciprocal agreements.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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