TRAVEL VISAS

Brussels cool on Spanish proposal to lift visas for Colombians and Peruvians

European Commission may consider move next year Rajoy government announced sudden change of policy

The European Commission announced on Monday that it may consider next year whether travel visa requirements should be lifted for the citizens of Colombia and Peru, as proposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The EC said it has not received a formal petition by Spain to include the two South American nations on the candidate list of nations who have petitioned Brussels to allow their citizens to be able to travel without needing an entry visa.

According to government sources, Rajoy spoke to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala over the weekend and pledged to ask the EU to remove the visa requirement for their citizens.

"The prime minister of Spain called me and gave Colombians a wonderful birthday gift," said Santos. "He told me he was going to ask the European Commission to lift travel visas for Colombians."

The news of Rajoy's change of policy after 12 years of not opposing the EU's exclusive list of nations that enjoy visa-free travel in Europe surprised many within his government.

When the EU began demanding in 2001 that citizens from certain Latin American nations needed visas to enter Europe, it sparked outrage from many regional leaders and intellectuals.

Colombia's Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez threatened never to return to Spain unless the rules were changed. "I shouldn't need permission to go to my mother's house," he said at the time.

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