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Visa-free travel for Thais to Europe still faces an uphill battle – Pattaya Mail

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The Thai and French prime ministers, Thavisin and Macron, are pushing for radical visa reforms.

A 2024 freed trade agreement between Thailand and the European Union is on the cards. It makes good sense by benefitting businesses, services and the supply chain. According to David Daly, EU ambassador to Thailand, bilateral trade has mushroomed to nearly one billion euros (nearly 40 billion baht) on a regular weekly basis. A comprehensive partnership and cooperation agreement will also cover intellectual property, government procurement and e-commerce. But a visa deal may be a different matter.

Srettha Thavisin and Emmanuel Macron, the premiers of Thailand and France, have made no secret of their desire to extend “freedom” into the visa world too. Although detail is lacking, the general idea is to allow EU citizens into Thailand visa-free and payment-free for 90 days as opposed to the current 30 days. This is sort-off the current agreement between Russia and Thailand, howbeit with some ambiguity about whether the three months’ stay permits business activity as well as beach holidays. The Thai prime minister does not seem over-concerned about recent cases of visa abuse and fraud, putting his faith in new technology and AI to identify and deport unwelcome guests.

The Thais originally championed the idea of EU nationals being able to enter a south east Asia Schengen-type zone. Arrival in any one of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam would bestow the right to enter any of the other four without a separate visa and without any fee. Nothing has been heard of this proposal of late as the issues are immense. For example, the Cambodian authorities charge almost all foreign tourists US$30 for a 30 days visa-on-arrival and are presumably very reluctant to give up a substantial income. The notion of a mini-Schengen in the Pacific region has not yet been seriously discussed within ASEAN.

Meanwhile, EU members apart from France and Germany have been ominously silent about Thais entering the Schengen zone without prior approval. There are 27 EU countries, but Cyprus and more importantly Ireland are Schengen opt-outs. However, there are four nations who are Schengen signatories but are not part of the EU: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. If these dozens of countries – often with contradictory priorities – have given the thumbs-up to the Thavisin-Macron visa proposals, they have done so with breathtaking secrecy. Still, you never know.

British bloggers from Tunbridge Wells to Loch Ness are already complaining on social media that it was a grave error to leave the EU in 2020 as the UK cannot now become part of any upcoming EU-Thai deal. But they ignore the fact that the UK was never a member of Schengen in any case, having opted out in 1999. As a Pattaya travel agent put it, “You could never take back a girl to the UK after a one night stand, and you never will.” As Bernard Trink might conclude, “Nuff said.”


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