In a recent interview, Member of the European Parliament Javier Zarzalejos explained that Ecuador’s entry into the list of countries that do not require a Schengen visa has the votes to be approved in the European Parliament.
The expectation about the possible withdrawal of the short-stay Schengen visa for Ecuadorians has grown in recent days. However, hope was overshadowed by a corruption case in the European Parliament.
In a recent interview with Ecuadorian journalists, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Javier Zarzalejos clarified the scenario and explained the pending steps for Ecuador to be able to enter the list of countries that do not require a visa to enter Europe.
According to the parliamentarian, there are no reasons for the measure to be rejected and what remains ahead are technical and not political issues. In addition, in the European Parliament there would be the votes to approve the measure.
What are the remaining steps to complete the Schengen visa waiver process?
We have taken a step that is already important: the legislative commission has adopted the decision that Ecuador be part of the list of countries that do not need a visa to enter the Schengen territory.
The next step is for this vote to be ratified by the plenary session of the European Parliament. And, from there, the decision will be adopted by the co-legislator, that is the European Council, which brings together the governments.
Then the technical procedures for the practical implementation of the measure have to be made.
We are in a very advanced state, the important thing was the legislative decision that has already been taken.
Ecuador’s request was in the same package as Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. After the corruption scandal that engulfed Qatar, what will happen now with that dossier?
We have worked very hard together with the Ecuadorian authorities to add Ecuador to this list. And we want to avoid at all costs that Ecuador is affected by circumstances that, precisely, do not affect it, but quite the opposite.
In that sense, the situation in Ecuador is exactly the same as it was. No political group has raised any criticism, no reservation, no objection.
And, for those of us who have promoted the incorporation of Ecuador to this list, it is a great honor to have advocated for a country whose democratic nature is recognized.
I want to bring a message of calm, from the point of view of the European Parliament.
Upon learning of the allegations in relation to Qatar, we have adopted a logical decision: withdraw this matter from the agenda and reconsider the situation in Qatar.
In the coming weeks, probably the next plenary session of the European Parliament, this will already be a reality. And I can say that the other speakers from other political groups agree that Ecuador does not have to pay the piper for other countries.
Ecuador has presented absolutely impeccable credentials on this point.
In the January vote, then, a decision would be made on Qatar, and the Ecuador process would continue its course?
We have to see what specific treatment we give to the case of Qatar. As also happened to us with Kuwait, which a few weeks ago had applied the death penalty to seven prisoners, when we were about to vote on this regulation.
That also meant that we had to reconsider the situation in Kuwait, and we did. But that did not affect the whole regulation.
We will now agree on a formula, a specific amendment, which we will submit to the plenary session of the European Parliament in relation to Qatar.
But there is already a text approved by the Legislative Commission, approved by the parliamentary groups, which simply has to be ratified in plenary. And that it would have been ratified, as we all would have expected, if this investigation had not arisen.
What number of votes is required for approval?
The simple majority, half plus one of the votes cast. But the vote in commission, where all the groups are present, was absolutely comfortable and broad in favor of this regulation.
Weren’t there some statements within Parliament that Ecuador would not be ready to enter the Schengen visa exemption list?
Those statements may have been confusing, on the part of the interior commissioner, with whom I have spoken about this issue.
But even when we talk about the parameters that must be met, Ecuador has successfully and efficiently introduced the biometric passport, which is an important requirement.
It has also adopted legislation that is fully satisfactory for the issue of the return of people who enter or remain irregularly in the territory of the Union, through the Human Mobility Law and the regulations.
They are starting a process to provide more and better information to the citizens of Ecuador, so that they know how they have to act in relation to their stay in the European Union.
And finally, there is the issue of the rejection rate for applications that are denied. But, although at this moment the rate is slightly higher, there has been a very positive evolution.
On the other hand, this is a data that needs to be refined, because we are talking about various requests, therefore, the data is not exact at all.
So, honestly, I believe that in the course of the technical talks between the European Commission and the Ecuadorian authorities, it will be possible to reach a perfectly satisfactory solution.
What is that technical evaluation about?
What the law provides is that within three months of the entry into force of this regulation (after the vote in Parliament), the European Commission has to provide a technical assessment of Ecuador’s conditions to technically implement the exemption of visas.
I am not saying to access the list of exemptions, because that decision has already been made.
There will be a dialogue between the executive powers, between the Ecuadorian authorities and the experts in the matter from the European Union who travel to the country, to give the necessary explanations and information.
And the Commission can make observations, say where more effort needs to be made or where improvements need to be made.
I do not anticipate any insurmountable obstacles, given the evolution that the process is undergoing.
The technical procedures imply that the authorities have the exchange of necessary information, forms, processes that replace the personal appearance at the European consulates to request the visa, etc.
Are there other deadlines after the evaluation?
No, the only one is the three-month period given to the European Commission.
Once the evaluation is passed, is the bilateral agreement for implementation signed?
After the technical evaluation, bilateral contacts begin and a text is established between Ecuador and the European Union, which establishes the commitments, the information exchange procedures, etc.
From the signing of the agreement, the exemption will enter into force. Furthermore, in Parliament we have considered that the signing of the agreement itself would not require subsequent ratification.
The Ecuadorian Government as a whole is perfectly capable of assuming that responsibility.
What is the political backing that Ecuador has in this process?
On this point, both the Spanish Popular Party and the Socialist Party have acted hand in hand, and we have also been able to influence and convince our European partners.
I am very satisfied with the support that, as an opponent, I have received from the entire European People’s Party. We started a very brief negotiation with the Socialist Party because we were on the same wavelength.
The Spanish Government had already expressed its desire for this to take place. And in the second half of next year, it will be the Spanish presidency of the European Union and we want the process to end there.
How do you see the work of the Ecuadorian government in this?
The leadership of President Guillermo Lasso has been very important, in directly raising this issue, not through corridors, not tangentially. To speak with the Spanish political forces, directly with the President of the Spanish Government and with the leader of the Popular Party.
And then there has been coordinated work between the Foreign Ministry and its representation in Brussels, in an undoubtedly complex world such as this of the European Union.
Overall, it has been a very satisfying job.
The previous government tried as well. What was the difference now?
I think that there has now been enough political intelligence to take this matter to the European Parliament and initiate a strategy of rapprochement and to get support.
So, when the opportunity has arisen, we have jumped on that vehicle and with such success that Ecuador is an unquestioned country in a process in which, unfortunately, we have had to question other countries.
Ecuador’s position, from this point of view, before Parliament, is very firm.
Once the waiver takes effect, can the decision be reversed and taken back?
No. There would have to be a situation of non-compliance, of lack of control, of a migratory crisis that nobody counts on.
Once the exemption was established, there is a regular mechanism in which, annually, Ecuador and the European Commission analyze how the process is progressing.
But honestly, once the exemption is established and operational, truly unimaginable things must occur for that to happen.