Updated 06:18 AM EDT, Tue, Apr 20, 2021

Colombia & EU Sign Schengen Deal Exempting Colombians from Visas When Traveling to Europe

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and high-ranking European Union officials signed an agreement this week allowing Colombians to enter Europe's Schengen Area without a visa.

The exemption, which was fully implemented on Thursday, has long been requested by the South American country, according to Colombia Reports. Citizens had to go through long and at times humiliating processes in order to travel to the 26 nations that belong to the open-border Schengen agreement.

The Schengen pact (comprising 22 EU member states, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) removed any kind of border patrol at the countries' common borders. This agreement rids the nations of money and paperwork, El Pais wrote.

Although no visa is required for 90 days, Colombians still have to demonstrate on entry that they possess a return ticket and the financial means or sponsor to sustain their visit in the "old world," Colombia Reports further reported. Santos said that the pact's signing marked a historic event.

"Today's event is a very important step to recover, in a certain way, our dignity, which we have lost or at least has been mistreated with the process of having to request a visa for each country in Europe every time we visited," the Colombian leader said, as quoted by the news outlet.

Peru also started the same process, but the country will have to wait until April to finalize the deal due to the implementation delays of a biometric passport system, a requirement for security reasons, El Pais wrote.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, sat down with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala in Paris on Monday to urge the Spanish government to make the "effort" essential to "quickly conclude negotiations," El Pais reported.

Peru's formal request to the EU came in 2013, while Ecuador is just beginning the process, the news outlet noted. EU, Colombian, and Peruvian officials kicked off the deal during the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean (EU-CELAC) summit held in Brussels, Belgium in June. The new regulations will be valid to passports issued starting on Dec. 31.

Since 2001, Colombians had been obliged to carry a visa to travel to Europe as tourists. This was due to fears that freedom of movement all over the region would benefit drug traffickers and illegal immigration. Santos described the past visa process as "unfriendly" when he visited Europe as a tourist, El Pais added.

In June, EU-CELAC heads also signed a plan of action intended to maintain Europe's notable influence in Latin America, El Pais wrote.

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