Proposed Touring Visa for Circus Artists Gaining Momentum despite Nationalist concerns about Illegal Immigration

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circusA new proposed Touring Visa would allow qualified non-EU nationals, including performing artists, their immediate family, and required specialty staff, that enter the Schengen area to circulate for up to one year (without staying for more the then 90 days in the same Member State in any 180-day period) to perform under contracts with circuses and festivals. In addition, under the Touring Visa, it would be possible for the applicant to obtain an extension for an additional year. The Visa would be available for individuals from both visa-exempted and non-exempted countries thus overcoming the problems with the current Schengen visa rules that limit the stay of third country nationals in the Schengen Area to 90/180 days and require their return to home countries to obtain subsequent visas.

The European Commission’s April 2014 proposal for a Touring Visa currently is under discussion in the European Council Visa Working Group and in the European Parliament. Both institutions will have to agree to adopt it. The responsible committee at the European Parliament is Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Rapporteur Brice Hortefeux (FR-EPP) has raised concerns about the proposal, including the scope of the proposal and related possible security risks. He also has questioned the need for this new type of visa, citing the small number of beneficiaries. On Wednesday 17 June, LIBE organized a public hearing. Concerns similar to Brice’s were expressed by a former French Consul who participated in the hearing as an expert.

Ms. Lies Martens, company manager of Eastman, a renowned dance company in Belgium, also served as an expert at the hearing, representing PEARLE (the performing arts employers’ association). Ms. Martens gave an excellent presentation about the current problems in the live performance sector that could be addressed by the proposed Touring Visa. A representative of Cirque du Soleil also was present. The rapporteur’s draft opinion will be presented to LIBE in September and finalized thereafter. Unfortunately for the live performance sector, the European Parliament’s Committee on Education and Culture (CULT) declined to involve itself in evaluating the Commission’s proposal.

I3Recognizing the importance of the proposal to create jobs and generate economic benefit at the local level, the Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) decided to offer an opinion on the proposal and appointed Hungarian MEP Mr. István Ujhelyi as the rapporteur. Thanks to Mr. Ujhelyi’s leadership, on 24 June the European Parliament Intergroup on Tourism and Culture organized an event at which the need for and importance of the Touring Visa was underlined. On 14 July, Mr. Ujhelyi presented his draft opinion to the TRAN Committee in support of the proposal and in line with the views of the tourism sector. The TRAN opinion will be finalized in September. Meanwhile, Member State experts continue to review the proposal and develop their own positions and proposed amendments within the Council’s Visa Working Group. It is anticipated that the Council will finalize its position near year end and that negotiations between the Council (under the presidency of the Netherlands) and the Parliament will start in the first half of 2016.

Autumn, 2015 (Newsletter – Fédération Mondiale du Cirque)