By Moustafa Daly
Last November, the EU abruptly halted its visa-waiver agreement with Vanuatu, an island-nation in the South Pacific which makes an estimated 30% of its annual revenue from its CBI program.
The decision followed a period of rising tensions between the island and the EU, which saw the EU partially suspend the visa-waiver agreement and limiting it to citizens who had their passports prior to 2015 – which was before Vanuatu launched its first CBI program. This was followed by EU moving forward with a full suspension in November, which would have come into force this February – however the EU has now taken a U-turn on that decision.
EU updates its course of action for Vanuatu
In the latest update, EU decided to start working closely with the Vanuatu authorities to reform its CBI programs, while giving the island 18 months to reform the program – in effect suspending its earlier decision and resuming the visa-waiver agreement for another 18 months.
When EU partially suspended the visa-waiver agreement a year ago, it cited a number of reasons that include the ‘extremely low rejection rate’, lack of need for physical presence or residency requirement, voiding what the EU has since referred to as a vital link between the passport holder and the country, and granting citizenship to applicants listed in Interpol databases, among other reasons – all reasons which it now expects Vanuatu to fully address moving forward.
“The requirements of the EU commission so far are strengthening the due diligence process and screening process of prospective applicants, abolishing the easy name change possibility, and strengthening the security of the passport booklet… no surprises there,” explains Laszlo Kiss, managing director at Discus Holding.
EU is directly overseeing Vanuatu’s reforms
EU will start conducting virtual meetings with Vanuatu to ensure the program’s reforms are moving forward to the satisfaction of the EU, according to media reports.
The decision to resume the visa-waiver agreement comes after a December 2022 visit by Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau, who led a delegation to Brussels to showcase his government’s plans to reform the country’s CBI scheme. He requested a six months extension to the visa-waiver agreement while his government works to comply with EU demands, which the EU accepted and ended up giving it 18 months instead.
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