New visa agreement between Thailand and the European Union

By TIN Media | Asean News Published 2 months ago on 16 May 2024
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The possibility of a free trade agreement between Thailand and the European Union for 2024 is currently being discussed. According to EU Ambassador to Thailand, David Daly, this agreement could significantly benefit businesses, services, and supply chains, with bilateral trade reportedly reaching nearly one billion euros on a weekly basis. Alongside this economic partnership, there are talks of a comprehensive agreement covering areas such as intellectual property, government procurement, and e-commerce. However, the aspect of a visa agreement could entail separate considerations.

Potential Changes to Visa Regulations

  • Extended Visa-Free Entry: The leaders of Thailand and France, Srettha Thavisin and Emmanuel Macron respectively, have expressed a keen interest in extending visa freedoms. The proposal, still lacking in detailed specifics, suggests allowing EU citizens visa-free and payment-free entry into Thailand for up to 90 days, which is a significant increase from the current 30-day limit.
  • Comparative Agreements: This proposed arrangement bears some resemblance to the current agreement between Thailand and Russia, although it remains unclear if the extended stay would permit business activities in addition to tourism.

Technological Solutions to Visa Challenges

Despite recent issues of visa abuse and fraud, the Thai Prime Minister has shown confidence in new technologies and artificial intelligence to manage and mitigate such risks, suggesting a forward-thinking approach to handling entry regulations and enforcement.

Regional Visa Freedom Proposals

  • Southeast Asia Schengen-type Zone: Originally, there was a proposition for a Schengen-like agreement within Southeast Asia, where entry into one of the countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam) would grant travelers access to the others without additional visas or fees. However, significant challenges remain, particularly with countries like Cambodia that rely on visa fees as a substantial source of income. This idea has not progressed significantly in recent discussions.

European and Global Reactions

  • EU Consensus: While France and Germany have shown some openness to these visa proposals, other EU members have remained mostly silent, especially regarding reciprocal arrangements for Thai nationals entering the Schengen zone. The complexities of achieving a consensus among the 27 EU countries, including Schengen and non-Schengen members, highlight the diplomatic challenges involved.
  • Impact on UK Travelers: Post-Brexit, British commentators have expressed regret that the UK will not benefit from any potential EU-Thai visa deal due to its non-participation in the Schengen Agreement.

Impact on Travelers and the Tourism Industry

For travelers, especially from the EU, the proposed changes could lead to longer and potentially more frequent visits to Thailand, enhancing cultural exchanges and boosting tourism revenue. For the tourism industry, this could translate into greater demand for extended accommodation, services, and experiences, potentially invigorating local economies. Conversely, the industry must also prepare for the infrastructural and environmental impacts of increased visitor numbers, ensuring that growth is managed sustainably.


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