European Union Council votes in favour of Taiwan visa waiver -

The Council of the European Union has made a decision that is sure to get the PRC's blood boiling. Yesterday it voted in favour of allowing Taiwanese residents to tour the 27 European states visa-free.

The new rules, which will begin at the end of January 2011, will mean Taiwanese travellers no longer need a short-term visa for trips of up to 90 days. They will also be able to move freely across the passport-free Schengen travel zone, which includes 22 EU states plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Taiwanese travellers will not only save two weeks of time for visa applications but also $79 (NT$2,430) of visa fees.

The treatment is a boon for Taiwanese businessmen and their families residing in China, who will be able to tour Europe visa-free with an ROC passport without having to undergo the time-consuming application process for the visa for applicants from China.

However, residents of the PRC, population around 1.3 billion, compared to the 23,063,027-ish Taiwanese residents, will still need visas, something that will surely get their backs up.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Chin-tien Yang, said: “We welcome the decision and expect it to take effect by the end of next January,”

“ROC nationals will soon be able to visit 35 countries in Europe without a visa.”

“The ROC now enjoys visa-free entry or landing visas for 96 countries or territories,” Yang said. “These destinations account for 94 percent of visits by our nationals.”

More than 175,000 Schengen visas were issued in Taiwan last year, according to the commission. In a statement, it said due to the visa waiver, the number of Taiwan visitors to the EU is expected to rise by at least 30 percent.

"Today is a very important day for EU-Taiwan relations and I welcome the Council's decision giving the green light to our proposal," said Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in the statement.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek are scheduled to sign the proposal on 15 December.