EU slams UK for higher visa fees for East Europeans

By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius February 9, 2021

Estonia and Lithuania are reportedly one of five European Union countries left out by the post-Brexit United Kingdom from being eligible for a discount for UK visa fees. Brussels insists the situation, where some citizens of its member states are denied the rights that the others have upon entry into Britain, is reprehensible.

Estonia and Lithuania, along with Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia are the odd ones out from the 27-member bloc as their citizens are not eligible for a discounted visa. It is also offered to four non-EU countries.

Britain, however, argues that the eligibility list – which would see a €62.75 reduction in fees when applying via several visa routes and primarily affects skilled workers, healthcare staff, entrepreneurs and seasonal workers – is based on a Council of Europe treaty signed in 1961 and adopted by 26 countries, including the UK itself, at a time when the Baltic states were still occupied by the Soviet Union.

The Estonian foreign ministry told local media the UK is only taking into account the original 1961 version of the treaty, properly named the European Social Charter, which as noted excludes Estonia, rather than a newer version from 1996 which Estonia, by then independent, did accede to. The EU says it has to be swiftly amended to reflect the new reality.

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