By Anish Chand
The European Union will consider Fiji to be included in the list of countries with visa-free access to the Schengen Area of the EU.
This was one of the major undertakings by the EU at the European Union and Fiji’s fourth High Level Political Dialogue in Brussels last night Fiji time.
The discussions are mandatory under article 8 of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) – EU Partnership (Cotonou) Agreement.
Fiji’s Foreign Minister Inia Seruiratu represented Fiji while the EU was represented by Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific, Gunnar Wiegand.
“Taking good note of Fiji’s call for inclusion in the list of countries with visa-free access to the Schengen area, the EU side confirmed it would give due consideration to Fiji at the next review of the visa list,” a joint statement issued after the meeting stated.
The Schengen Area comprises of 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and other types of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.
“The EU and Fiji noted that since 1 May, Fiji citizens intending to travel to Germany can submit their applications for Schengen visas in Suva. Fiji reported on progress made in its discussions with other EU member states on a similar scheme that would allow for the processing of applications for Schengen visas in Suva, providing for visits to these EU member states,” the statement said.
Discussions also took place on Fiji’s inclusion on a list of countries that the EU sees as tax-havens.
At the meeting, Fiji outlined a number of tax reforms and initiatives essential for the country’s consistent economic performance.
“Both parties took good note of the inclusion of Fiji in the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions, released by the EU on 12 March 2019. The EU and Fiji agreed to discuss this matter further so as to facilitate Fiji’s efforts to reach compliance with the requirements, as this will make it possible for the country to be removed from this list,” the joint statement said.
Meanwhile the EU encouraged Fiji to take steps to further the effective implementation of their Economic Partnership Agreement.
Both discussed “the possible use of global sourcing as a tool to boost investment in the fisheries sector.”
Global sourcing would allow Fiji to process fishery and marine products from other countries in the region and export them to the EU without taxes being levied.
Both sides stressed their commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and to address effectively the ambition gap.
The EU and Fiji also discussed priorities and developments in the area of human rights and the rule of law.
It is envisaged that the next Political Dialogue meeting between Fiji and the EU will be held in Fiji, in 2020.