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Schengen Visa Regime Topic Of Debate In Athens

“The commission is looking into the issue of long waiting lines to obtain a visa, but also member states do not put their money where their mouths are as they should include more staff in consulates,” argued Diederik Paalman, deputy head of the visa policy unit of the European Commission, at an international conference held recently in Athens.

The international conference entitled “Mobility and Travel: Overcoming travel barriers” focused on “tourism losses” from the Schengen treaty.

“No matter what you think, EU legislation does help security and counter illegal immigration,” Mr. Paalman said.

For some time now, Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos has argued that Schengen visa procedures prevents tourism growth to Greece from specific markets such as China, Russia and Ukraine.

“Over the last five years two million Russian tourists came to our country when during the same period 14 million Russians traveled to Turkey where the issuance of a visa is not required,” Mr. Yeroulanos said during the conference. According to the minister, the Schengen treaty accomplishes “nothing essential” in the fight against illegal immigration.

On his part, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Taleb Rifai underlined that the “visa problem” was not entirely Greek as it is a pending issue on the agenda of the global tourism sector.
He reminded that even US President Barack Obama recently signed a new executive order to promote travel to America by easing the visa process for foreign tourists.

The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) recently made a proposal for the creation and operation of a European electronic database for e-visas. Such a database already operates in Poland.

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