EU visa changes expected soon: foreign minister


TAIPEI — The process of securing visa-free privileges for Taiwanese tourists to the European Union is “going smoothly” and the measure might be implemented soon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang said Saturday. “The visa-exemption treatment could be provided by the end of this year if approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union,” Yang told reporters during a sightseeing tour of eastern Taiwan’s Taitung County with foreign ambassadors to Taiwan. “I am cautiously optimistic about the matter, which has been proceeding smoothly,” he said. According to ministry spokesman James Chang, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, submitted a proposal in July suggesting that the EU include Taiwan on its Schengen visa-free privilege list. A working panel of the Council of the European Union and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament discussed the proposal in September and were both positive about granting Taiwanese visitors visa-free privileges, Chang said. He added that the Council of European Commission and the European Parliament are slated to hold meetings in October or November to screen and vote on the matter. The Schengen Area comprises the territories of 25 European countries, which include 22 EU member states and three-non EU states — Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The visa-waiver program is also applicable to three non-Schengen EU member states — Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus. The Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes, with border controls for travelers traveling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls. Taiwan has so far been given visa-exemption privileges by 33 countries, including New Zealand, Ireland, Britain, Japan and South Korea.