Czech Republic faces uphill battle to win EU-wide retort to Canadian visas|
The Czech Republic has pinned its hopes on the European Union for a
forceful retort to Canada’s imposition of visas on Czech citizens. Prague
has already officially lodged its demand that Brussels hits back with
across the board visa requirements on Canadians. But the success of that
demand looks far from certain.
As the Czech government smouldered with anger at Canada’s reintroduction
of visas to stem a surge of, mostly Roma, asylum applications, Brussels
offered sympathy but not much more.
The Czech demand for a tit-for-tat retort with the EU imposing visas
across the board on all Canadians will certainly not be a swift revenge and
could very well not materialise at all.
Rory Watson is a veteran Brussels-based EU journalist. He thinks
Prague’s demand for solidarity from the EU’s other 26 member states
looks doomed from the outset.
“Well, I think there will be considerable sympathy for the Czech
concerns but I think that other countries will probably feel this is more a
bilateral issue between the Czech Republic and Canada. And I think it will
be very difficult to get a majority, or even all of the 27, to take
measures against a country basically with which the EU has good relations
and which the UK has traditional links”
Mr Watson says he cannot think of any precedents where EU countries have
united to slap on visa requirements on another country because of local
difficulties with one member. In the short-term, he sees the European
Commission trying to play an honest broker in the soured relations between
the Czech Republic and Canada and attempting to defuse the current
Time-wise at least, revenge will be a dish that will have to be savoured
cold, if at all, by the Czech Republic. The EU’s creaky procedures mean
that officials at the European Commission will have up to three months to
weigh up Prague’s request but have promised to report back in September.
Then member states will have another three months to ponder their stance.
There is also another complication highlighted by the Czech press on
Wednesday. The European-wide passport-free Schengen zone covers most EU
countries as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. These latter
countries would also have to be brought on board for any meaningful reply
With that sort of mathematics, united European action looks even more
doubtful. So Prague is likely to be faced with a decision in around six
months time whether to impose visas on Canadians on its own.