OTTAWA — Canada and the European Union are racing towards a Tuesday deadline to avoid triggering a process that could result in Canadian travellers having to obtain a visa to travel to 26 European countries.
It is part of an ongoing dispute in which the EU has pushed Canada to lift its requirement on travellers from its member countries, Romania and Bulgaria.
The issue has raised concerns that the dispute could adversely affect the mammoth Canada-EU free trade deal, which still has yet to be ratified.
The 28-member bloc says Canada’s visa violates the spirit of reciprocity, but the Immigration Department disagrees.
Representatives from Canada, the EU, and Bulgaria and Romania have met four times since then — including a session this past Wednesday — but no progress has been made, said one source familiar with the efforts but not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Tuesday’s deadline raises the possibility of igniting a nasty public spat in a year when Canada and the EU are celebrating 40 years of relations and hoping to finally ratify their landmark free trade deal.
A Romanian member of the European Parliament raised that possibility in January in an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Immigration Minister John McCallum and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
European lawmaker Sorin Moisa wrote that removing visas for Romanians and Bulgarians “would not bring any risks for Canada, would remove some of the real political risks to CETA’s adoption, and would spare both the EU and Canada an embarrassing legal and political row.”
The EU’s embassy in Ottawa declined comment.