The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government received information Tuesday, December 5, that the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union (EU) had reached an agreement in principle to grant visa-free access to HKSAR passport holders.
The Justice and Home Affairs Council of EU agreed to a Council Regulation on visa policy on December 1. When the Regulation comes into force, it will enable HKSAR passport holders to visit 13 more EU member states visa-free for a period up to three months.
The Council Regulation would be submitted to the European Parliament for consultation before it can be formally adopted. It is expected that the remaining legal procedures will be completed in the first half of 2001.
Of the EU member states, the UK and Ireland have already granted visa-free access to HKSAR passport holders. In 1999, Hong Kong residents made some 310,000 trips to Europe. EU is now the third largest trading partner of Hong Kong.
The EU Council's decision, when implemented, will bring to 86 the total number of countries and regions granting visa-free access to HKSAR passport holders.
Tung Chee Hwa, chief executive of the HKSAR, welcomed the decision by the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU to grant visa-free access to the HKSAR passport holders.
"The decision is a milestone in the HKSAR government's campaign to enhance travel convenience for Hong Kong residents, " Tung said.
"Businessmen and investors having trade links with Europe will benefit in particular, so will other frequent travelers."
"The visa-free grant marks a vote of confidence by EU Member States on the HKSAR's immigration control under the 'one country, two systems' arrangement," he said.
(People’s Daily 12/05/2000)