Policy Article

The Process of Visa Facilitation in the European Neighbourhood - A Tool in Need of Refinement

In: K.Böttger, T.Börzel: Policy Change in the EU‘s Immediate Neighbourhood: A Sectoral Approach, Baden-Baden: Nomos

This policy paper aims at offering suggestions on how to improve the effect of policy conditionality in European Neighbourhood Countries (ENC). It specifically addresses European Union (EU) policy makers concerned with visa facilitation negotiations as a reward in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Visa facilitation, as a first step towards visa liberalization with the EU is formally closely linked to reforms of the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) in the ENC as outlined within the framework of the ENP and the Eastern Partnership (EaP). Yet, as the cases of the Southern Caucasian countries Georgia and Armenia show, policy conditionality can be decoupled from domestic reform processes and linked to broader geopolitical concerns of the EU in the region. The current appli- cation of visa facilitation as a form of policy conditionality thus falls short of fully exerting its “transformative power” potential and rather causes frustration in some neighbourhood countries that draw comparisons with their regional neighbours. The policy paper recommends refining the policy conditionality attached to visa facilitation and developing a clearer catalogue of reform criteria, a “roadmap-light” that triggers the start of a visa facilitation process. Comparable to the visa liberal- ization progress, this might render the application of policy conditionality more transparent and could help ensure that domestic change in migration policies in the ENC is more sustainable.