Updated: EU mulls granting Schengen visas periodically in Guyana

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 August 2022, 14:04 by Denis Chabrol

European Union Ambassador to Guyana Fernando Ponz Canto and President Irfaan Ali.

The European Union (EU) is exploring the possibility of a team of consular officials coming to Guyana periodically to process and grant Schengen visas to Guyanese t0 avoid them travelling to the Dutch Embassy in Suriname, EU Ambassador to Guyana Fernando Ponz Canto said Wednesday.

“Who knows: perhaps, of course, without any commitment, one possibility could be that some officials could come periodically here and deliver the visas. We are exploring that possibility. We do not know whether it will work,” he told reporters.

He explained that that could entail the travelling of consular officials of The Netherlands Embassy in Suriname periodically to Guyana to deliver visas to Guyanese.

Responding minutes earlier to President Irfaan Ali’s stirring call for EU visas to be granted in Guyana on a full-time basis, Mr Ponz Canto explained that under European rules, the EU institutions such as the Delegation could not make such a decision as that is the responsibility of the EU member states.

The EU envoy said the movement of the consular office from Paramaribo to Georgetown would be “difficult because there are many financial implications which are not within our control.”

Ultimately, the outgoing EU envoy said the desire is to abolish visa requirements for visas to travel to EU member states. Currently, Guyanese have to travel to a European embassy in Suriname or Trinidad to obtain Schengen visas to travel to any of the EU member states.

President Ali stressed the need for EU visas to be granted in Guyana, and hoped that the impending formal establishment of the EU-Guyana Chamber of Commerce would be an impetus for this to happen.

The President seemed to believe that the EU could easily decide on setting up a consular office in Guyana, saying that the technology such an an advanced passenger information system could screen undesirable persons and grant Schengen visas. “It is not a luxury for the EU anymore to take their time and grant us that facility. I think that the EU must understand that it is in their strategic interest to have that facility here in Guyana within the next three months and we have to find where we can get it done within the next three months, which embassy is in a position to get it done in the next three months, what you want us to do to help you to get it done in the next three months and get it done,” he said.

The President criticised the long wait by Guyanese , including the return trip to Suriname, to get an EU visa. “It’s nonsense. Absolutely ridiculous and in this modern world in which Guyana is strategically positioned, you have all the sophisticated investors coming in to Guyana to invest, we can’t continue like this,” he said.  Dr Ali asked the EU envoy to let the two sides “double down” on that issue within the next 48 hours, “make the appropriate noise and get this done.” The President was confident that “our system could match any system they have” in Suriname to allow for the visas to be granted in Guyana to allow for ease of travel and people-to-people contact.

In addition to the return of British Airways from next year, he announced that Guyana was now hoping to get KLM Airline, another European carrier. Efforts, he said, were also underway to get airlift to and from Canada with the involvement of a consortium of Guyanese.

The President said technology should not be used as an excuse not to grant EU visas here.