Mr. Stephen Harper
Government of Canada
The purpose of this open letter is to stress on the importance of finding a solution to the current situation concerning the travel visas Canada imposes on the citizens of three European Union Member States: Romania, Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
We, the three co-signatories of this open letter, Members of the European Parliament elected in these three Member States as representatives of tens of millions citizens and defending their interests and rights as Europeans, consider as being our duty to address you this open letter. We are not speaking here about Romanian, Czech or Bulgarian citizens; rather, we speak about European citizens whose European citizenship is a social and legal reality, being expressly inserted in the Treaty of Lisbon. Although, in principle, they should enjoy the same rights and be treated equally to other European citizens, in practice this is not happening because of the fear that Canada would be assaulted by thousand of citizens coming from these three countries and asking for political asylum.
Of course Canada, as a signer of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could not refuse the right of one person to seek asylum. It is perfectly reasonable to investigate each asylum application before taking a decision of admitting or rejecting the applicant and, therefore, admitting or rejecting the application. But we consider that the citizenship of the applicant should be the first criteria which the Canadian authorities should consider during examination.
Practically, the option to seek political asylum should not exist for European citizens. However, we are ready to acknowledge that cases of discrimination could exist in the EU. We could admit though, that there is a theoretical probability of discrimination cases in the EU. There are, in any way, democratic means for the 27 European Union Member States to demonstrate that they feel discriminated in their very home states, European Union representing a democratic space where no one is prevented from seeking justice. In this event, however, we have enough institutional tools in place, both national and European, as well as a strong NGO sector, that should be used long before coming to seek asylum in your country.
This reality should be considered in the analysis of an asylum application, in order to accelerate the approval or rejection procedure. In other words, any application for asylum, coming from a European citizen, should be preceded by a refusal of the national authorities, national and European courts, to protect a fundamental right of the applicant.
Each individual Member State, as well as the European Union, as a legal entity distinct from its members, has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we all agree that the right to asylum is a fundamental right. What we do not understand is the tolerance of the Canadian authorities towards the abuses that the asylum seekers coming from EU Member States practice deliberately, and that the only response from the Canadian Government to this is to maintain or restore travel visas for all citizens of the EU countries from where the ones that abuse the asylum procedure are coming from. Or that, by such a system, another fundamental right is in breach, that of free movement of persons, as mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Your Excellency, as you know, European Union and Canada are intensively negotiating a frame agreement and a free trade agreement that, once approved, will be a legal and economic framework more than avant-garde in terms of development of the Canadian-European economic relations. However, one cannot ignore the fact that most of our citizens consider the free movement of the people more important than the one of capitals, goods or services. Under these circumstances, it is plausible that the Romanians, Czechs and Bulgarians consider any treaty that ignores their right to free movement, despite the fact that they are European citizens, as one incomplete or useless.
So we take this opportunity, Prime Minister, to express our hope that, by the completion of negotiations for any or both of the Bilateral Agreement or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (scheduled for the first quarter of next year), the visas situation for Romanian, Czechs and Bulgarian citizens will be solved, so when the agreement(s) will reach the European Parliament to be approved by vote, the 70 European MPs from these three Member States (40 MPs representing a blocking minority, according to the European Parliament’s rules of procedure), regardless of the political group they belong, will vote without any withholding due to the responsibility they have towards their constituencies.
We can only hope that soon the Romanian, Czech and Bulgarian citizens, in their vast majority traveling in good faith attracted by the beauty of your country, by the desire to see their relatives and friends, but also by the possibility of extending their businesses, will need no visa anymore. This would be a sign of normality of very good bilateral relations between countries, representing the past and the future of millions of citizens.
Hoping to conclude as soon as possible the Bilateral Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and to solve the visas situation imposed to Romanian, Czech and Bulgarian citizens,
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.
Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Vice-Chair
Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
Member elected in Bulgaria
Sebastian V. BODU
Group of the European People’s Party (Christian-Democrats)
Committee on Legal Affairs, Vice-Chair
Member elected in Romania
Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Member elected in Czech Republic