EU removes Vanuatu from Visa Waiver list, who to blame?

In a major development, the European Council has expelled Vanuatu from the EU’s Visa Waiver List.

Vanuatu: In a major development, the European Council has expelled Vanuatu from the EU’s Visa Waiver List. The partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement will come into force two months after the publication of the Official Journal. South Pacific Ocean nation will not be a part of the visa-free list. This decision was proposed by the EU Commission in January 2022.

This latest update conveyed that, after the suspension would take effect, Vanuatu citizens whose passports have been issued after May 25, 2015 will require a visa to travel to the EU.

The decision has been taken after the country failed to solve the issues flagged by the EU commission. According to several reports, following the strict decision opted by the European Union, the United Kingdom will soon oust Vanuatu from its Visa Waiver List, because of similar reasons.

The European Council, in a press statement, based on careful monitoring and assessment of Vanuatu’s investor citizenship schemes, the EU has concluded they present serious decencies which would in turn pose risk to the EU, due to any of the following reasons:

• Extremely low rejection rate (No reliability of security and due diligence screening).
• Absence of physical presence or residence requirements – the short processing time and lack in information exchange.
• Granting citizenship to applicants who are listed in the Interpol database.
• Nationalities of origin of successful applicants, which include several countries whose nationals require a visa to enter the EU

According to the sources, closely associated with Vanuatu underscored that the island country did not add the due-diligence procedure in its Citizenship by Investment Programme, which contribute in the background checks of the investors. Reportedly, if they continued doing same then there are high chances that UK will also expel Vanuatu from its visa waiver List.

As per personnel of Vanuatu’s Citizenship Commission (Citizenship by Investment Unit), three individuals are accountable for Vanuatu’s oust from visa waiver agreement with the European Union, namely Advocate General (AG) Arnold Kiel Loughman, Minister of Finance and Head of FIU – Floyd Ray Mera.

As per the early reports, Attorney General wrote a letter to Prime Minister Bob Laughman and advised the Government that it should avoid entering into a CBI Programme-related agreement with an independent international firm and formed a government led special task unit which dramatically failed to conduct the task.

This was reported after the Chairman of the Citizenship Commission of Vanuatu – Ronald Warsal, stated that the current coalition government led by PM Laughman has taken a proactive stance to review and re-evaluate to understand the significance and impact of the programme.

The source further advised the Prime Minister must have had taken decision as per the requirement of the country and must not rely on the remarks by the Attorney General or the ministers, who are subsequently misleading the country for their ego of not being asked before introducing international firms.

Earlier, in the starting of February 2022, the world’s largest government advisory and marketing firm, specialising in residency and citizenship by investment solutions terminated their official contract (related to the Citizenship by Investment Programme) with the Government of Vanuatu. This termination was blamed to the “intra-government” turmoil, according to the close source.

The source further added that the special Task Force appointed by the Government of Vanuatu is ‘good for nothing’ as it hasn’t taken any rigid step to strengthen the safety and security of the CBI Programme offered by Vanuatu. He stated that “the team is a lazy bone just sitting idle”.

He also advised that the government must go with international expertise rather than going with local personnel and must learn a lesson to secure the country from getting a removal by the UK.

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