The European Council has published an updated, scaled-back position on the long-debated Visa Directive, a European Commission initiative that sets out the conditions under which non-EU nationals can enter the European Union for research, study, exchange, training, volunteering or au-pairing.
The Council’s updated position would limit mobility to certain groups and likely ensure that lengthy delays and barriers to entry in Europe would persist. EU Member States would only be obliged to apply the directive to researchers and students, and it would remain optional for volunteers, pupils, trainees and au pairs.
Furthermore, the Council is calling for additional restrictions on intra-EU mobility: the provision in the European Commission’s proposal (also supported by the European Parliament) allowing for free movement within the EU for third-country nationals that have authorisation to live in one EU country, has been removed. As well as this, visa fees would not be waived, but “should not be proportionate or excessive”, and the deadline for responding to visa applications would be set at 90 days, as opposed to the 60 days proposed by the Commission or the 30 days proposed by the Parliament.
Moreover, the Council gives Member States the right to consider volunteers (as well as researchers and trainees) as labour force and to apply immigration quotas as for other categories of employees (paragraph 28.a). Member States would also have the right to apply a test demonstrating that the post cannot be filled from within the domestic labour market. We believe that this provision is inconsistent with youth mobility and volunteering principles and risks to seriously hinder EU mobility programs.
EFIL strongly urges the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, in their upcoming negotiations on the Directive, to restore its scope as originally proposed, and to thoroughly examine whether or not, in its current form from the Council, it will achieve any of the objectives for which a Revision was necessary in the first place.
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