Head of EU Visa Policy Meeting With All Caribbean CBI Countries This Week

EU representatives, including the Union’s Head of Visa Policy and its liaison in Barbados, are this week conducting meetings with all Caribbean CBI countries to discuss the future of visa-free Schengen travel, EU concerns about CBI, and other matters, according to local sources privy to the meetings.

The meetings have taken place at the Intercontinental Dominica Cabrits Resort, and the EU has so far concluded talks with Dominica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and Grenada, reports our source, adding that corresponding meetings with Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada will take place later this week. Heads of Caribbean CIUs and several attorneys general of the respective countries have taken part in dialogues, which are described as “initial and early-stage” in nature.

The EU has reportedly made clear that while there is no imminent threat to visa-free Schengen access for the Caribbean Five, revocation of such travel privileges could be among the consequences if the EU’s misgivings about the region’s CBI programs are not addressed.

Of particular concern to the EU are potential national security and immigration risks associated with the granting of citizenship to individuals the EU does not wish to grant access to Europe. Moreover, at least during the meeting with Dominica, the EU expressed apprehension about the low-cost/high-volume model of CBI adopted in the last few years, a model whose risks they say have been exacerbated by the prevalence of irregular but tolerated discounting schemes.

The EU cited developer Caribbean Galaxy’s highly questionable past projects in Saint Kitts – over which at least one program stakeholder has filed a US lawsuit against the developer – and expressed concerns about the same developer’s recently obtaining a further batch of CBI units in Saint Lucia.

Responding to a text message from IMI, Saint Kitts & Nevis’ CIU boss, Michael Martin, confirmed that he was in meetings with the EU today.

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“It has been more of a fact-finding mission,” he remarked, adding that the dialogue had been “constructive and informative.”

Prompted to confirm whether the delegation had expressed concern about discounting in its meeting also with Saint Kitts today, as it had in its meeting with Dominica yesterday, Martin responded that “they did not express anything definitive. I suspect they will issue a report after they finish the round of meetings.”

The head of another Caribbean program, whose meeting with the delegation is slated for later this week, did not wish to comment on the ongoing discussions because of the sensitivity of the topics addressed.

During the meeting with Dominica yesterday, EU representatives indicated they would like to see Caribbean programs raise their prices by an order of magnitude to obtain similar levels of CBI revenue but from a much smaller volume of applications.

Another source says the delegation had expressed dismay at Grenada’s acceptance of Russian applicants (which the country discontinued last year) and hinted this might have negative diplomatic consequences. The EU representatives also said there were indications that other Caribbean CBI programs may also have welcomed Russians despite public announcements to the contrary.

During the talks, the EU representatives acknowledged the integral role CBI plays in the economies in question and indicated it would only take drastic steps regarding visa policy if necessary from a security perspective.

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