Dominica wants Europe to lift Schengen visa requirement to stimulate trade
Dominica says it is pursuing efforts to get the European Union to remove the visa requirements for nationals travelling to Europe, saying that it was important to stimulate trade under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with Europe five years ago.
Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Alvin Bernard said Dominica has joined several countries in making the request.
‘We have made some progress and we have had tremendous commitment from various representatives of the Council, but at the moment, the most recent report that we have received is that the Council is at the moment preoccupied with two other countries that have been included on the negative list.
“Apparently the consideration of the request from Dominica is still for consideration…but it has been delayed because of the countries from the Middle Eastern area included on the list”.
Bernard said Dominica was pursing the initiative “because we see the lifting of the visa requirement for Dominica and other affected countries, particularly signatories to the Economic partnership Agreement as critical.
Dominica and other countries of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) grouping signed the EPA in October 2008 that also provides substantial EU aid for trade.
According to the European Union website, the purpose of the agreement is to make it easier for people and businesses from the two regions to invest in and trade with each other and thus to help Caribbean countries grow their economies and create jobs.
“As you know we are signatories to the Economic Partnership Agreement between ACP (African Caribbean and Pacific) countries and the European Union and in order to fulfill the objectives of this agreement it is critical that we have free movement of our respective citizens because the EPA covers a number of areas including trade and in order to fulfill that it is important that we have free movement,” said Bernard.
Last year, Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs said the Commission was putting in place measures to allow citizens from six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries travel to the Schengen area without a visa.
She said the change is more than “just a symbolic gesture” and was intended to have a direct impact between the European Commission and Grenada.
The countries named were St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Schengen area includes 22 EU member states and four associated States. The visa waiver will also apply to Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus which are not yet full members of the Schengen area.