22 September 2016 (New York, New York) – The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Secretary of Foreign Affairs Lorin Robert signed an agreement with representatives of the European Union (EU) that enables short-term visa-free travel to Europe for FSM citizens under most circumstances.
The new visa-waiver agreement, which also provides for reciprocal treatment of European citizens who visit the FSM, was signed on the European side by both Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs Miroslav Lajčák (the current President of the Council of the European Union) and Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship. The signing ceremony, hosted by the Slovak Mission to the United Nations, was also attended by FSM Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Jeem Lippwe and Second Secretary Martin Zvachula.
This agreement makes it possible for FSM and EU citizens to enter each other’s territories and stay without visas for a maximum period of 90 days in any 180-day period. The visa waiver applies to people traveling for almost all purposes (e.g., tourism, international meetings, business meetings, and sporting events), with some minor exceptions, including the category of “carrying out a paid activity”. The visa waiver applying date begun on September 20, 2016.
Before the visa waiver came into full swing, in order to travel to most EU countries, FSM citizens had to obtain “Schengen visas” that allowed them to enter the Schengen Area of the EU, which includes all of the EU countries except the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland. The new visa-waiver agreement covers the same area, meaning it does not cover UK and Ireland. Fortunately, a separate agreement with the UK already allows visa-free travel to the UK by FSM citizens. Thus, Ireland remains the only EU country to which FSM citizens cannot travel visa-free.
The signing of the visa-waiver agreement was one of the last steps in a process that began in 2014 when the EU adopted a regulation that proposed visa requirements be removed for 17 countries, including 9 Pacific islands. This was a welcome proposal, and bilateral discussions and drafting of the agreement quickly ensued. The agreement will not be final until it is ratified by both the FSM Congress and the European Parliament; however, the visa waiver applies before then on a provisional basis.
At the signing ceremony, Secretary Robert, Minister Lajčák and Commissioner Avramopoulos each made brief remarks. Secretary Robert spoke of the longstanding relationship between Micronesian and European peoples, beginning with the first interactions with Spain and then Germany hundreds of years ago. He also highlighted recent cooperation with the European Development Fund, which supported installation of solar photovoltaic systems in all four FSM states. This project enabled electrification of some outer islands for the first time. Commissioner Avramopoulos noted that the visa-waiver agreement would facilitate further cooperation as well as trade and cultural exchanges.
Any FSM citizens who have questions about the visa waiver for travel to EU countries may contact the Department of Foreign Affairs (691-320-2641), the FSM Embassy to the United States (+1 202-223-4383) or the FSM Mission to the United Nations (+1 212-697-8370). These numbers and other contact information for Department of Foreign Affairs and all overseas missions and consulates of the FSM is also available here: http://www.fsmgov.org/ovmis.html.