EU-CELAC Summit: Pres Ali discusses Guyana’s nomination for visa-free Schengen status


…in-country visa processing also addressed with Slovenia Deputy PM

Guyana’s bid to be added to the list of countries with visa-free Schengen access was among the topics President Dr Irfaan Ali raised with at least one European leader during the just-concluded European Union- Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (EU-CELAC) Summit.

It was revealed in a statement from the Office of the President that President Ali had bilateral discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Tanja Fajon on the sidelines of the EU-CELAC Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

A number of issues were raised during the discussions, as the two leaders explored potential collaboration between Guyana and Slovenia in sectors that include agriculture and renewable energy. Importantly, they also discussed Guyana’s nomination letter for visa-free Schengen status.

“The talks centred around exploring potential trade collaboration between the two countries, especially in agriculture, clean and renewable energy. President Ali also discussed Guyana’s nomination letter for visa-free Schengen status and the possibility of an interim in-country processing of Schengen visa applications,” the Office of the President also revealed.

Guyana and Slovenia established diplomatic relations on April 20, 2007. Slovenia is one of 27 European countries in the Schengen area that Guyanese require a visa to travel to. A pressing issue for Guyana in its relations with Europe is the setting up of a local Schengen visa processing office.

For some time, concern has been expressed that visas for Guyanese to travel to the EU still have to be processed in Suriname at the Netherlands Embassy. Former EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Cantó had told Guyana Times last year that the request for an office in Guyana to process visa requests to Europe was a reasonable one and was, in fact, being addressed by the EU.

He had cautioned, however, that the granting of Schengen visas was subject to individual member countries, and not to the EU as a whole. As such, he noted that the EU did not have the power to grant visas. Cantó had also expressed the hope that visa-free travel could be facilitated at some point in the future.

“The problem, and I need to be very clear on that, the Schengen visa is not under our responsibilities. It is a responsibility of the member states of the European Union, not the institutions of the EU that we represent. We cannot give the visas ourselves, but we can help and we’re trying to help facilitate the process.”

“Of course, I would be very happy if in the longer term, we arrive at a point where we have visa liberalisation so that visas are not necessary for Guyanese to come to Europe, but also for the Europeans are not necessary to come to Guyana,” Cantó had said.

In the absence of visa-free access, the Schengen Visa would entitle non-Europeans to travel to Slovenia and any of the other 26 Schengen countries, including Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland- for a stay of up to 90 days.

Most notably, Guyanese enjoy visa-free access to a few European countries already, including the United Kingdom (UK), Ireland, Russia and Kosovo. Guyana has meanwhile been pushing for visa-free access to Italy.