Citizens of Ecuador and Bolivia remain the only South Americans obliged to apply for a Schengen visa, and unfortunately, this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Hopes of Ecuadorians to travel freely to the European Union, without the burden of a Schengen visa, have been shattered. Despite promises from Presidents Lenín Moreno and Guillermo Lasso to achieve what was truncated by Rafael Correa in 2009, their efforts have not yielded the desired results.
President Lasso recently made a final attempt during his visit to Brussels on July 17, 2023, where he signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the European Union and Ecuador. This document had been in the works for almost a year, irrespective of the political changes and events such as Lasso’s impeachment trial and the upcoming extraordinary elections.
The primary objective of the memorandum is to institutionalize cooperation between both parties, safeguarding mutual work from political, regional, and international fluctuations. While the intention is to foster “stronger and closer cooperation,” the Schengen visa waiver is merely listed as a “possibility” without specific commitments or deadlines. Furthermore, the document does not establish rights or obligations for those involved.
Not a European priority
The Schengen visa exemption is not categorized as an “essential priority” within the memorandum, which focuses on eight main areas of cooperation encompassing environmental, economic, social, scientific, educational, development, security, Venezuelan migration, investment, and multilateral cooperation.
Although there are 14 areas of cooperation identified for intensification and expansion, the recent optimism of Foreign Minister Gustavo Manrique is dampened by the fact that the Schengen visa exemption might not become a reality in the short or medium term.
One of the obstacles Ecuador faces is the high rate of rejection for visa applications due to an alarming number of false or dubious documents being submitted, reaching a rejection rate of 22% by the end of 2022.
Unfortunately, Ecuador is not a priority for Europe at the moment. The European continent is grappling with several pressing issues, including the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, energy and migration crises, waves of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, and the impact of climate change.
Missed its chance
Ecuador was left out of the visa exemption granted to Colombia and Peru by the government of Rafael Correa in June 2009. Correa opted for individual commercial agreements, while the neighboring countries received the benefit in June 2015 through a multi-party agreement.
As a result, Ecuador, along with Bolivia, remains the only Spanish-speaking countries in South America whose citizens require a visa to travel to Europe.
The dream of Ecuadorians to have a Schengen visa waiver has encountered significant roadblocks in the past. And the recent memorandum of understanding between the European Union and Ecuador provides little assurance, as the exemption does not appear to be a priority for either party.