Statement Against Visa Fee Raise (vom 15.05.2006),
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[15. May 2006]

Statement Against Visa Fee Raise

We are shocked that the European Council for Justice and Home Affairs is considering to raise the fee for a visa from EURO 35 to EURO 60, as of January 1, 2007.

We call upon the so-called 'Schengen countries' and the EU ministers for Justice and Home Affairs not to raise the fee for a EU visa, as this will even further restrict the already very limited opportunities for citizens from countries outside the EU to visit EU member states, considered to be an inspiring role model for democracy and the concept of open societies. The fee of EURO 35 is already quite high for many people. Raising it to EURO 60 would mean yet another obstacle and a slap in the face for these citizens (often young people wishing to discover other horizons), most of whom face a lack of financial means.

One of the geographical areas that would be hit by a higher visa fee are the Western Balkans. For the Citizens' Pact this does not only raise serious concern but also huge question-marks.

On the one hand, 'Europe' is all the time telling us that the Western Balkans are part of Europe and that our future is, in the end, in the European Union. At the same time, the very existing of the current visa regime is making progress in the process of European integration much more difficult. Tens of thousands of people wish to visit countries in the European Union, for many good and valid reasons. Many decide not to stand the humiliation of endless visa queues in front of the EU Embassies and the demand to bring copies of air tickets, bank accounts, employer's letters, original invitation letters, health-care insurance documents, and so on.

Yet, more communication between the EU countries and the countries of the Western Balkans will make our citizens more aware of the shortcomings at home, and will challenge them to be more critical of their own national governments and to be more active themselves in preparing the way to EU membership. The EU would benefit greatly from visa liberalisation. It would pay off in democratisation initiatives, more rapid reform and the development of a proper understanding of the values and principles that bind the EU member states.

We call upon the European Council of Justice and Home Affairs to reconsider the raising of the fee of a visa. We call upon the ministers to make way with visa liberalisation rather than building higher blockades for co-operation between the Western Balkans and the EU member states.

:: The Citizens' Pact for South Eastern Europe, April 4, 2006.