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02 Mar 2017

EU thinks of suspending visa free travel for US citizens

European Union might suspend the visa waiver for citizens of the United States citizens if Washington doesn’t lift the visa requirements for the citizens of 5 EU countries. Today, the members of European Parliament issued a resolution that urges the European Commission to adopt the necessary legal measures within a period of 2 months.

Washington still does not grant visa-free access to the citizens of Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. On the contrary, U.S. citizens are allowed to travel everywhere inside the EU without restrictions.  According to visa reciprocity mechanism, if a third country doesn’t lift its visa requirements within 24 months of being notified on non-reciprocity, the Commission must take a delegated act suspending the visa waiver for a period of 12 months. The Parliament and the Council have the right to object if they don’t see it fit.

In 2014, the U.S. was given a notification and was urged to solve the problem of visa for citizens of those 5 EU countries. In 2016, the Commission neglected to take appropriate legal measures. A possible suspension of the visa waiver for U.S. citizens will make travelling to EU difficult whether it is going to be for work, studies or tourism. It is going also to create tension and shake the diplomatic ties between them because diplomats are the first who will be in need of new diplomatic visas.

Visas for travelling to the U.S., especially for the latest members of EU, don’t represent a new problem. Washington repeatedly asked those EU countries to sign certain bilateral agreements as a precondition to benefit from the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. One of these agreements is about exchanging information on terrorist suspects and acts. A second one includes the exchange of biometric data which aims to prevent and detect criminal and terrorist activity. U.S.A has already signed such agreements with some EU countries already.

Washington states that first each country must fulfill every security requirement and then it can include the countries to the visa program. On the other side, EU officials believe that the Americans are trying to undermine the EU common visa policy and force countries to sign separate agreements in violation of rules.

The European Travel Commission (ETC) announced that it fully understands the decision taken by the EU Parliament but expressed its serious concerns about the political and economic impact that might have on travel and tourism. Analysts of the tourism industry expressed the opinion that a suspension of visa waiver will damage the European tourism industry and will be seen as a turn-off for the potential traveler that doesn’t want to spend money or time for a visa application.

State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has not yet responded to today’s vote.