Visa policy within the European Union structure : competence, convergence and consistency
This study focuses on European integration of national visa policies as a case study on the constitutional structure of the European Union (EU). The thesis starts by tracing the nature of visas in international practice and in national laws. Visas are inextricably linked to the concept of the State and to some of its essential functions. They express the sovereign right to control entry into the State, play an important role in recognition of other States and governments, and reflect information from overseas embassies. From the national point of view, they are an instrument of foreign policy and of internal security. The present constitutional design of the EU permits the Member States to retain sovereign status and autonomy in the maintenance of internal order and security through recourse to the intergovernmental method for cooperation on foreign and security policy (the Second Pillar) and for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (the Third Pillar). Increasingly, the two legal methods deployed by the EU (the Community and the intergovernmental methods) cross-fertilize and the EU acts as a 'unity'. Against this background, the thesis traces the development of the common policy on short-term visas and its characteristics. Within the EU constitutional structure, the nature of visas is at the heart of the difficulties which have been encountered in the process of harmonization and explains the sui generis character of the common policy. The thesis describes cooperation before the Treaty on European Union adopted at Maastricht, under the Schengen Convention and under the Maastricht Treaty. It considers the highly complex legal framework introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty and changes proposed in the Draft Constitutional Treaty. It further considers the issue of 'consistency' with regard to the overlap of powers under different Pillars of the EU on visas and with regard to policy formulation on the 'area of freedom, security and justice'. The thesis finally draws conclusions on what visa policy reveals on constitutional issues such as vertical division of competence, convergence of legal methods, consistency and the increasing complexity of the European legal framework.