BY VALENTINA POP
BERLIN - Romania has threatened not to ratify a recently signed EU-Canada free trade deal unless Ottawa lifts visa requirements for Romanians.
"I do not believe the Romanian parliament will ratify the EU-Canada free trade agreement without the Canadian authorities first adopting fair measures concerning the freedom of movement of Romanian citizens," Romanian foreign minister Titus Corlatean said on Thursday (24 October) during a visit to Washington.
He added that Romania is merely demanding the same treatment as the Czech republic, for whom visa requirements will be lifted in the coming days.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the Czech promise when signing the EU-Canada free trade agreement in Brussels last week.
The Canada trade deal, seen as a template for the bigger, yet-to-be-concluded EU-US agreement, cannot come into force until the European Parliament and all 28 EU parliaments as well as the Canadian legislature have ratified it.
The agreement is estimated to come into force not earlier than 2015, at best.
Prague has already signalled it may withhold ratification, if the visa-free promise does not materialise.
Unlike Romania and Bulgaria, which always needed visas for Canada, the Czech republic had a visa-free regime from 2007 until 2009, when Ottawa decided to reintroduce visas due to the large number of Roma asylum seekers coming from the Czech side.
But "positive developments" in the number of Czech visa applications led the government to change its mind again.
As for Romania, Canadian trade minister Ed Fast last week said: "We are showing great importance to our relations with countries like Romania and Bulgaria and we are confident of being able to fix the situation in the short or medium term."
Meanwhile, the EU's ambassador to Canada, Marie-Anne Coninsx, has suggested that parts of the agreement could be implemented earlier, circumventing the national ratification process.
“We are counting that the real entry into force might be 2015, but it’s not excluded - and that we are verifying too - that a provisional entry into force of some of the parts might be possible,” she told Globe and Mail newspaper.
The ambassador did not specify which parts of the deal could be enacted early.
But she said the European Parliament might be able to approve those sections of the agreement that fall under its exclusive jurisdiction.
The remaining sections, which cover member-state-level policy, could come into force later, once all 28 states have ratified the deal, she noted.