The next move toward ratifying Canada’s trade deal with the European Union is set for early next week, when Immigration Minister John McCallum is expected in Brussels to resolve Canada’s long-standing visa dispute with Romania and Bulgaria.
With an October signing date now set for the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), Canada must act — or risk a veto by countries who don’t appreciate their nationals being treated as second-class EU citizens, cbc.ca/news reports.
In April, Canada and the United States were given an additional three months to comply with the EU’s policy of visa reciprocity: countries whose citizens don’t need EU visas must, in return, allow visa-free travel for all EU nationals.
Canada currently requires visas for nationals from Romania and Bulgaria, while the U.S. requires visas for citizens from five EU member states.
The European Commission is set to meet July 13 to consider whether to follow through and impose reciprocal visas on Canadians and Americans.
McCallum’s office confirms he’ll be in Brussels July 10 to 12 for meetings to support the adoption of CETA and “reiterate Canada’s position in regard to the visa reciprocity mechanism.”
The European Commission’s decision Tuesday to propose CETA as a “mixed” agreement jurisdictionally means the European Council must act by consensus to approve the trade deal for ratification.
If one or two countries refuse to sign on, they can effectively veto the deal. That would mean Canada’s formal signing in October could be off — or at least delayed.
Romania has not been shy about linking its support for CETA with Canada’s willingness to lift the visa requirement, the same source reports.
Romania’s prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, was in Ottawa on June 15 and discussed the visa issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a half-hour.
PM Ciolos, optimistic
PM Dacian Ciolos said on Wednesday evening for public television (TVR 1) that things are moving forward toward visa requirements for Canada being lifted, pointing out that he would be in touch with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in this respect.
“I hope we see very clear progress and even decisions (…) by the end of this government’s tenure. My conversation with PM Trudeau was a very good one in my opinion. If before going there he believed that the Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Canada had nothing to do with the visas, after this discussion he understood that he must approach this topic on a political level and must prepare a decision. I see that things are moving, I shall keep in touch with him and I am positive that we shall see clarifications regarding Canada’s position as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said for TVR.
He also said that Romania does have certain levers which it will use.
“Otherwise, we do have some levers as an EU member state, which we shall definitely use, because I cannot think of Romania signing a treaty with Canada without its citizens being able to benefit on an equal footing with the other European citizens from this agreement. It is that simple,” Ciolos said.
Official talks next week
On the other hand, the PM’s Chancellery head Dragos Tudorache announced on Wednesday at Victoria Palace that on Monday in Brussels he would have talks with Canadian Immigration Minister John McCallum as well as officials of the European Commission and Bulgaria Canada lifting its visa requirements for Romanian nationals.
“On Monday there will be a second official meeting in Brussels, to which Romania and Bulgaria are invited by the Commission and Immigration Minister McCallum will represent Canada. I will participate in this meeting. I will have a bilateral meeting with Minister John McCallum and then a tripartite meeting with the Commission and Bulgaria. We will see the phase of the talks and the commitment that Prime Minister Trudeau made in his discussion with Premier Ciolos. We remain optimistic on this issue, but I prefer to wait until Monday’s meetings before speaking on their result,” Tudorache said on Wednesday at Victoria Palace.