TAIPEI, Taiwan — The final step in the European Union’s screening of Taiwan’s inclusion in its visa-waiver program will be moved forward by a week to Nov. 25 or 26 so that it can take effect as soon as possible, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said yesterday. The vote was originally scheduled for Dec. 2 at a session of the Justice and Home Affairs Council under the Council of the European Union, but Taiwan worked to move it forward to a session of the Competitiveness Council on either Nov. 25 or 26, Yang said.
The Council of the European Union, more commonly referred to as the EU Council of Ministers, is the EU’s main decision-making body, representing the member governments. The Central News Agency’s Brussels-based correspondent reported that the proposal will be on the competitiveness committee’s Nov. 25 agenda and is expected to be approved by “acceptance without discussion,” citing the council’s press office. “Since the proposal is expected to be approved without any debate, it doesn’t matter which council screens it,” Yang said. By accelerating the screening process, Taiwan hopes that the ensuing translation of the documents into different EU member languages and other administrative procedures will be completed by the Christmas break so that the proposal can be adopted by the end of the year, he said. The vote will be the final hurdle after the proposal cleared the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) by a 47-1 vote on Oct. 26 and the European Parliament plenary by a 559-40 margin with 13 abstentions on Nov. 11.
The visa-waiver means that Taiwanese nationals will be able to enter the European countries included in the program visa-free and stay for up to 90 days within a six-month period. The exemption will apply to 25 Schengen Area countries, comprising 22 EU member states and three non-EU states — Norway, Iceland and Switzerland — and three non-Schengen EU member states — Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus.