The European Union’s Commission has published a report on the visa-free travel arrangements between the EU Member Countries with the Republic of Korea and Japan, noting that the latter is not fully applying the agreement with the EU in this regard due to the Coronavirus entry ban on tourists.
In the report, the Commission welcomes the progress made by the Republic of Korea to re-establish visa-free travel with the EU, thus permitting entry for travellers from the EU, while it criticises the government of Japan for keeping in place a ban on European tourists.
“Diplomatic efforts have not yet led to a full change of policy in Japan, where restrictions on travel to Japan from the EU are still in place. Although the entry ban for non-tourist purposes for travellers coming from 24 EU Member States has been lifted, for tourist purposes, it is still not permitted,” the Commission notes, amongst others, in a press release issued on Tuesday regarding the report.
It also asserts that at this point, it is more favourable for both parties to reach an agreement through continued engagement and diplomatic contacts instead of reciprocating the entry ban for Japanese tourists wishing to visit Europe or any other similar suspension measures.
Restoration of Visa-Free Travel Between EU & Republic of Korea
Full visa-waiver reciprocity was in place between the EU and both the Republic of Korea and Japan until the outbreak of the Coronavirus. On April 10, 2020, the Republic of Korea announced it was suspending all visa-free entry and visa-waiver programs for nationals of countries that had been banned from entering Korean nationals, including here the EU.
The country also suspended all valid short-term visas issued before April 5 in these countries. Exempt from the measure were only the nationals of Malta and Slovenia, as these two countries did not restrict entry for Korean nationals.
The country restored visa-free travel for all EU nationals on September 2021, at which time it also introduced the K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation) system of travel authorisations, through which it manages traveller flows.
“The new K-ETA system applies to all EU Member States, for tourist travels for up to 90 days for ordinary passport holders. Preliminary analysis by the Commission shows that this amounts to restoring visa-free travel,” the Commission’s report asserts.
EU Working With Japan to Reinstate Visa-Free Entry Regime for Europeans
In April 2020, Japan introduced an entry ban on all travel from the EU Member States, also suspending visa-free entry for EU nationals and all valid visas.
Only on April 8 this year, Japan lifted the entry ban on travellers that have stayed in Europe for the 14 days before their trip to its territory. While all tourists from the EU are currently banned from entering Japan, essential travel is possible for the majority of EU countries.
“However, for Bulgaria, Estonia and Slovakia, the entry ban concerns both tourist and non-tourist travel to Japan,” the Commission points out.
The Commission claims that it has been in contact with the Japanese authorities regarding the issue, pointing out that the visa measures in question do not constitute an efficient way to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Japan.
In this regard, representatives of the EU and Japan have agreed to work at the 28 EU-Japan Summit on May 12. The Commission, however, is set to monitor the situation and act according to the moves of the Japanese authorities in the near future.
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