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EU-Canada trade deal in jeopardy if visa problem not solved, Czech PM says

Czech Position, Czech Republic

EU-Canada trade deal in jeopardy if visa problem not solved, Czech PM says

Czech PM warns of problems with Canada-EU trade deal if Ottawa doesn’t lift visa requirements on Czechs imposed some three years ago

By Chris Johnstone

21 May 2012

Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrat, ODS) has warned his Canadian counterpart that the Czech Republic could create problems with a trade and economic agreement between the European Union and Canada unless Ottawa backs down over its visa requirement for Czechs visiting the country.

Nečas’ warning was delivered in a meeting with Stephen Harper on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Chicago, US. The imposition of visa requirements on Czechs in July 2009 in an apparent move to head off a wave of asylum applications from Czech Roma visiting the country has long grated on Prague, with the country trying to use its diplomatic muscle in the EU to get Canada to back down. US diplomatic cables leaked on WikiLeaks showed how the Canadians imposed the visa requirement on Mexico and Canada at the same time to deflect criticism they might be picking on one country.

“I once again expressed to premier Harper our disagreement with the introduction of the visa requirement and asked for a solution to the problem,” Nečas said on the Czech government’s website.

He said that Harper promised reforms to his country’s asylum system by the middle of the year setting out countries, presumably including the Czech Republic, where political asylum applications would not be accepted. This would remove the threat of further applications from the Czech Roma minority while paving the way for the overall visa requirement to be dropped.

Nečas warned that Prague was ready to create problems for a pending economic and free trade area between the EU and Canada if a solution to the long-running visa problem was not found.

“I regarded it as my duty to correctly inform the Canadian premier that if the situation of the visa regime is not changed this agreement from the Czech side could meet with a whole series of problems including difficulties with ratification in parliament, which for political reasons are wholly understandable,” the Czech prime minister said.

Nečas said that the promised changes to the Canadian asylum rules would probably take time to navigate the country’s legislative procedures.