"Despite the cold here in Strasbourg, I'd like now to talk about countries which are warmer and where the temperatures are slightly more ideal than in here."
Those were the opening words of rapporteur Simon Busuttil
(EPP, Malta) as he rose to address MEPs at the European Parliament session in Strasbourg last night conveying the Parliament's approval to conclude the agreement signed in May 2009 between the EU and representatives from Antigua and Barbuda
, the Bahamas
, Saint Kitts and Nevis
to waive the short-stay visa requirements for EU-residents.
Ning's beach equipment hire and surf school, Barbados: Photo (C) Neil Burgess
This agreement provides for visa-free travel for all citizens of the European Union
to each of these countries when travelling for a maximum period of three months during a six month period. (And vice-versa for citizens of these Caribbean countries to the EU).
The short-stay visa waiver agreement, the first of its kind concluded by the European Community, had to be postponed because of special visa regimes were introduced by some of these states in anticipation of the 2007 Cricket World Cup
But now the agreement has received the blessing of the Parliament, and EU citizens, and MEPs alike, can look forward to "visa-free holidays" to these "warmer climates".
However, the agreement does not
cover people travelling for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity, so each Member State remains free to enforce its own individual visa requirements.
This news comes at a good time for me in eager anticipation of my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Barbados this December, and certainly one less thing to worry about!
Back in Strasbourg, MEPs of the Civil Liberties Committee
this week have told Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina that they must catch up on the reforms needed to qualify for a similar arrangement
. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro also shortly stand to benefit from short-stay visa waiver agreements.