Thursday

19th Oct 2017

US questions visa waivers for EU nationals

  • Brussels was hit with a devestating terrorist attack last March (Photo: Eric Maurice)

Republican lawmakers in the US are looking into possibly imposing visas on millions of visiting EU nationals, based on broader concerns over terrorism.

A senior Republican congressman, who is leading a taskforce on denying terrorists entry into the United States, warned on Wednesday (3 May) that the majority of attacks in Europe were carried out by passport-holding European citizens.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"The majority of these attackers were European citizens with valid passports, so it is easy to imagine any one of them gaining access to this country through a valid visa or through the Visa Waiver Program," said congressman Mike Gallagher.

Nationals from all EU member states - with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania - are allowed to the travel to the US for up to 90 days without having to apply for a visa.

The US administration had added further restrictions on EU nationals who also carry citizenship from Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan.

Others who had travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen after 2011 are also excluded and must apply for a visa.

The fear of returned foreign fighters from battlefields in Syria and Iraq has only further heightened security anxieties.

As of mid-March, around 2,500 EU nationals were thought to be still fighting for the extremists.

However, the EU's top counter-terrorism coordinator has said the biggest threat did not come from returned foreign fighters, but instead from "people who live here and for different reasons become radicalised”.

But earlier this week, the US state department also issued a travel alert for US citizens going to Europe, in light of the recent attacks in France, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Gallagher's comments stand in stark contrast to recent announcements by the European Commission that it would not impose visas on visiting US nationals to the EU, despite demands to the contrary from the European Parliament.

The EU commission said it instead prefers to iron out differences with its US counterparts by engaging in dialogue.

In an opinion piece posted on the conservative Fox News network earlier this week, Gallagher said greater efforts need to be made "to close legal pathways by which terrorists enter the homeland."

Gallagher's views are likely to stoke fears that the US may impose even more restrictions on visiting EU nationals, piling on greater pressure for the EU commission to reciprocate with similar measures.

Such demands were also recently floated by the US homeland security secretary, John Kelly.

In April, he said the US should review its visa waiver programme for EU citizens, given the expected military defeat of the Islamic State.

He noted their defeat may trigger a retreat of extremist fighters with EU nationalities back to their home countries.

"We have to start looking very hard at that program - not eliminating it and not doing anything excessive - but look very hard at that program and say, ‘What do we need to do?”', Kelly said.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

EU hopes Trump will back down on visa war

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.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Austrian PM calls Brexit talks speed 'big disappointment'
  2. PM Muscat: journalist murder 'left a mark' on Malta
  3. Belgian PM: No crisis with Spain over Catalan remarks
  4. Ireland PM: Further Brexit concessions needed from UK
  5. Merkel: rule of law in Turkey going 'in wrong direction'
  6. Finnish PM: EU 'frustrated' with slow Brexit talks
  7. Dutch PM: Catalan crisis is not a European issue
  8. May 'urgently' wants to see a deal on citizens' rights

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  2. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  3. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  6. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  7. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  8. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  9. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  10. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  11. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness

Latest News

  1. Digital debate will be first test of Tusk's new policy crowbar
  2. EU Parliament: EU migrant quotas do have a future
  3. EU countries praise Tusk's new summit plans
  4. Commission employs double standards in Spain
  5. Legal study sounds alarm on 'Baysanto' merger
  6. Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020
  7. Tusk: EU migrant quotas have 'no future'
  8. Spain still wants to host EU agency in Catalan capital