Wednesday

24th May 2017

EU keeps visa-free travel for US visitors

  • People from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania still need visas to travel to the US (Photo: The Hamster Factor)

US travellers to the EU won't require visas despite demands from the European Parliament.

The European Commission on Tuesday (2 May) told reporters that such a move would not be in the mutual interest of EU citizens.

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"The European Union will always choose engagement, commitment, and passionate diplomacy over any form of unilateral retaliation," said EU commissioner for home affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The US administration has so far refused to lift visa requirements on EU nationals from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Canada had also imposed restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians.

As a result, lawmakers in the EU parliament passed a non-binding resolution in March demanding the EU commission to reintroduce visas for US and Canadian citizens.

The tit-for-tat measure has sparked fears among senior EU officials, who believe the proposed visas would make travelling to the US and Canada more difficult for EU citizens.

Avramopoulos said a ministerial meeting will instead take place in June with US counterparts in an effort to iron out differences.

The commissioner has also been in contact with secretary of US homeland security, John F Kelly, to "clarify many points on these bilateral issues".

But Tuesday's move to maintain visa-free travel for Americans is likely to be viewed as capitulation by an EU parliament, which has threatened to take the commission to the European Court of Justice over the matter.

EU law obliges the commission to impose the visas on the US because of their refusal to lift restrictions on the handful of EU states.

The commission is hoping to convince critics that its marginal success in similar issues with Canada is the best strategy moving forwards.

Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, who have held a Canadian temporary visa in the past ten years or who currently hold valid US non-immigrant visa, are now able to travel visa-free to the country.

The plan is to allow all other Bulgarians and Romanians visa-free travel to Canada by the start of December.

"The rest of Romanian and Bulgarian travellers will become visa free as of December 1st of this year," said Avramopoulos.

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The Commission is hoping that Trump, the incoming US president, will back down in a potential visa war, but terrorist attacks in Europe could make that less likely.

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A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

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