The need to simplify and accelerate the issuing of Schengen visas was discussed in a meeting on 23 January between Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and the general secretaries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Anastasios Mitsialis and Panagiotis Mihalos.
During the meeting, both sides discussed the new tourism season in relation to the issuance of Schengen visas to travelers from non-European Union countries. More specifically, they exchanged views on the preparedness and possible support the Greek consular authorities may need for the new tourism season.
Last year, the number of visas issued to citizens from emerging foreign markets to Greece rose by 50 percent, according to data from the Tourism Ministry. From 2012 to 2013, the number of visas issued to Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish tourists visiting Greece increased by 51.40 percent, 56.60 percent and 40.75 percent respectively.
Visa facilitation pilot program for Eastern Aegean Islands
The ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs also discussed the possibility of extending Greece’s current visa facilitation pilot program – for easy entrance to Eastern Aegean islands – to other islands of the group.
According to the pilot program – usually in effect from late Spring until Fall – Turkish tourists or other non-EU citizens visiting Turkey that wish to visit selected Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean for less than 15 days can issue visas either through Turkish travel agents or straight from the ports of the islands (with the proper documentation).
Since the launch of the pilot program two years ago, the number of visas to islands where entry is permitted has tripled.
Visa issue a priority under Greece’s Presidency of the Council of the EU
One of the main tourism priorities under Greece’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union is to work to advance negotiations on the expected proposal by the Commission on the revision of the Visa Code. The proposal will be tabled to the European Commission in March.
In addition, according to the tourism ministry, on 6 February, a meeting will take place in Athens between the General Secretariat of International Economic Relations of the MFA, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) and Consuls from key target markets to address a range of issues in view of 2014 tourism season.