RECOMMENDATION on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Kiribati on the short-stay visa waiver

    15.11.2016 - (12092/2015 – C8-0253/2016 – 2015/0200(NLE)) - ***

    Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
    Rapporteur: Mariya Gabriel

    Procedure : 2015/0200(NLE)
    Document stages in plenary
    Document selected :  
    A8-0334/2016
    Texts tabled :
    A8-0334/2016
    Debates :
    Texts adopted :

    DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

    on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Kiribati on the short-stay visa waiver

    (12092/2015 – C8-0253/2016 – 2015/0200(NLE))

    (Consent)

    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to the draft Council decision (12092/2015),

    –  having regard to the draft Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Kiribati on the short-stay visa waiver (12091/2015),

    –  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 77(2)(a) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0253/2016),

    –  having regard to Rule 99(1), first and third subparagraphs, Rule 99(2) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

    –  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0334/2016),

    1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreement;

    2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Republic of Kiribati.

    SHORT JUSTIFICATION

    The framework of relations, and general provisions of the agreement

    Relations between the European Union and the Republic of Kiribati are governed by the partnership agreement between members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part and the European Union and its Member States of the other part, known as the Cotonou Agreement.

    As part of the amendment of Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 by Regulation no 509/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council, the Republic of Kiribati was transferred to Annex II, which establishes the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from the requirement to obtain visas in order to cross the external borders of the Member States. Regulation No 539/2001 – in its amended form – applies to all Member States, with the exception of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

    After the adoption of this Regulation on 20 May 2014, the Council adopted on 9 October 2014 a decision authorising the Commission to open negotiations with a view to the conclusion of the bilateral agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Kiribati. The negotiations were launched on 17 December 2014 and concluded on 10 June 2015. The agreement was signed on 23 June 2016 in Brussels. Since that date, the agreement has applied provisionally, pending approval by the European Parliament. On 4 July 2016, the Council asked Parliament to give its consent.

    The agreement provides for visa-free travel for the citizens of the European Union and for the citizens of the Republic of Kiribati when travelling to the territory of the other Contracting Party for a maximum period of 90 days in any 180-day period. The visa waiver covers all categories of persons (ordinary, diplomatic, service/official and special passport holders) travelling for all kinds of purposes, except for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity.

    Rapporteur’s justification

    This agreement on the waiver of short-stay visas simultaneously represents a culmination of the deepening of relations between the European Union and the Republic of Kiribati - which is politically highly significant in the context of the Cotonou Agreement – and an additional way of stepping up economic and cultural relations and intensifying political dialogue on various issues, including human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    The rapporteur notes that the visa waiver agreement could have positive effects by simplifying travel for businesspeople, facilitating investment and boosting tourism. Kiribati’s economy is largely based on agriculture, in particular fisheries, and on services, which account for 25% and 66% of GDP respectively. Fishing licences are a major source of income for the country, providing 23-30% of government revenues. Tourism is still very limited - 4 000 tourists a year - and is concentrated on the Line Islands. Investment and trade with Kiribati are currently low in terms of value and in relative terms. The EU is currently negotiating Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with 14 Pacific countries, including the Republic of Kiribati. The rapporteur notes that the visa waiver agreement is further evidence of our commitment to the region, with a view to a strengthened partnership.

    Politically, the Government of Kiribati has made significant progress in honouring its international human rights obligations and achieving internationally laid down objectives, such as the Millennium Development Goals. Among the advances made, adoption of the 2011-2021 action plan on eliminating sexual and gender-based violence in Kiribati is a significant step and reflects the country’s current efforts to comply with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Accordingly, the agreement is a positive sign of support for the country, allowing us to pursue a balanced, regular and in-depth political dialogue on these issues, which remain priorities for the EU.

    With regard to mobility, the data available show that the visa refusal rate for Kiribati nationals is very low. However, it is complicated for them to make visa applications because Schengen Area countries’ consulates are so far away. In 2014 and 2015, no nationals of Kiribati were arrested in the EU for being in an irregular situation, refused entry at the EU border or returned. Moreover, no asylum applications were lodged by citizens of Kiribati. The country does not therefore pose any threat in terms of irregular migration, migration flows, security or public policy.

    Lastly, the rapporteur would stress the by no means negligible impact which the visa waiver will have on rapprochement between the peoples of Europe and the Pacific. The visa waiver agreement will enable citizens not only to derive full and tangible benefit from the ACP-EU partnership but also to participate in it by travelling at a reduced, economical and practical cost.

    In this context, the rapporteur welcomes the role played by members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), who did much to contribute to the conclusion of this agreement, which, in addition, will facilitate their attendance at meetings of the ACP-EU JPA.

    Implementation and monitoring of the agreement

    As regards the implementation and monitoring of the agreement, the rapporteur calls on the Commission to observe any developments in relation to the criteria which initially led to the transfer from Annex I to Annex II of Regulation No 509/2014. These criteria include not only clandestine immigration, public policy and security, but also the Union’s external relations with the third countries concerned, including, in particular, considerations relating to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    In addition, the rapporteur calls on the Commission and the authorities of Kiribati to ensure full reciprocity of the visa waiver, which should permit equal treatment of all citizens, particularly all citizens of the EU.

    The rapporteur would draw attention to the fact that, within the Joint Committee for the management of the agreement (Article 6), the European Union is represented only by the Commission. As an institution directly elected by European citizens, which defends democracy, human rights and the fundamental principles of the European Union, the European Parliament could be involved in the work of the Joint Committee. Parliament’s rapporteur once again encourages the Commission to review the composition of the joint management committees for future agreements.

    The rapporteur also queries the practice of signing visa waiver agreements and applying them provisionally before the European Parliament has approved them. The rapporteur observes that this practice is liable to reduce Parliament’s room for manoeuvre and is all the more problematic because Parliament is not informed about them as the bilateral negotiations progress.

    **

    Special provisions

    The specific situation of the United Kingdom and Ireland is taken into account in the preamble. Thus the United Kingdom and Ireland will not participate in the agreement which has been concluded and are not subject to its provisions.

    The close involvement of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis is likewise reflected in a joint declaration annexed to the agreement. The declaration encourages the authorities of those countries to conclude as quickly as possible with the Republic of Kiribati bilateral agreements on the short-stay visa waiver in terms similar to those of this Agreement.

    The agreement contains provisions related to its territorial application: in the case of France and the Netherlands, the provisions of the agreement apply only in those two Member States’ European territories.

    **

    Finally, the rapporteur recommends that the members of Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs support this report and that the European Parliament give its consent.

    PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

    Title

    Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Kiribati on the short-stay visa waiver

    References

    12092/2015 – C8-0253/2016 – COM(2015)04382015/0200(NLE)

    Date of consultation / request for consent

    4.7.2016

     

     

     

    Committee responsible

           Date announced in plenary

    LIBE

    7.7.2016

     

     

     

    Committees asked for opinions

           Date announced in plenary

    AFET

    7.7.2016

     

     

     

    Not delivering opinions

           Date of decision

    AFET

    13.10.2015

     

     

     

    Rapporteurs

           Date appointed

    Mariya Gabriel

    26.10.2015

     

     

     

    Discussed in committee

    12.10.2016

    8.11.2016

     

     

    Date adopted

    8.11.2016

     

     

     

    Result of final vote

    +:

    –:

    0:

    42

    4

    0

    Members present for the final vote

    Martina Anderson, Gerard Batten, Malin Björk, Michał Boni, Caterina Chinnici, Rachida Dati, Cornelia Ernst, Tanja Fajon, Mariya Gabriel, Kinga Gál, Ana Gomes, Nathalie Griesbeck, Jussi Halla-aho, Barbara Kudrycka, Marju Lauristin, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Roberta Metsola, Claude Moraes, Péter Niedermüller, Judith Sargentini, Birgit Sippel, Csaba Sógor, Helga Stevens, Traian Ungureanu, Bodil Valero, Udo Voigt, Beatrix von Storch, Josef Weidenholzer, Cecilia Wikström, Kristina Winberg, Tomáš Zdechovský

    Substitutes present for the final vote

    Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Kostas Chrysogonos, Carlos Coelho, Pál Csáky, Miriam Dalli, Daniel Dalton, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Ska Keller, Miltiadis Kyrkos, Jeroen Lenaers, Ulrike Lunacek, Andrejs Mamikins, Axel Voss

    Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

    Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Maria Noichl

    Date tabled

    15.11.2016

    FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

    42

    +

    ALDE

    Nathalie Griesbeck, Cecilia Wikström

    ECR

    Daniel Dalton, Jussi Halla-aho, Helga Stevens

    GUE

    Martina Anderson, Malin Björk, Kostas Chrysogonos, Cornelia Ernst

    PPE

    Michał Boni, Carlos Coelho, Pál Csáky, Rachida Dati, Mariya Gabriel, Kinga Gál, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Barbara Kudrycka, Jeroen Lenaers, Roberta Metsola, Csaba Sógor, Traian Ungureanu, Axel Voss, Tomáš Zdechovský

    S&D

    Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Caterina Chinnici, Miriam Dalli, Tanja Fajon, Ana Gomes, Miltiadis Kyrkos, Marju Lauristin, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Andrejs Mamikins, Claude Moraes, Péter Niedermüller, Maria Noichl, Birgit Sippel, Josef Weidenholzer

    VERTS/ALE

    Ska Keller, Ulrike Lunacek, Judith Sargentini, Bodil Valero

    4

    -

    EFDD

    Gerard Batten, Kristina Winberg, Beatrix von Storch

    NI

    Udo Voigt

    0

    0

     

     

    Key to symbols:

    +  :  in favour

    -  :  against

    0  :  abstention