1st Oct 2020

East Europeans on track for US visa-free regime

The Slovak government adopted on Monday (29 September) two key documents that should put Bratislava firmly on track to visa-free regime with the United States. Travel barriers are expected to fall this year.

"No later than from the beginning of next year, we will be able to travel without visa ... I think this I can say with a great degree of probability," Slovak foreign minister Jan Kubis said after the extraordinary government meeting entirely devoted to the issue.

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  • Bratislava - one of seven hopefuls to secure visa-free travel to the US (Photo: European Commission)

By adopting the documents, Slovakia and the US are making the commitment to boost co-operation in the fight against terrorism and serious crime by, among other things, sharing information on terrorists and terrorist suspects, including DNA and fingerprint data.

"It is mainly about very swift and flexible exchange of all information linked to terrorist screening," Slovak home affairs minister Robert Kalinak said, describing the two agreements as "key conditions" to visa-free travel to the US.

The Slovak parliament is expected to endorse the new security scheme in October.

Bratislava is currently awaiting a final US evaluation of the visa refusal-rate - something that Washington wants to see down to below ten percent.

"We have signals that we should be under the threshold," Mr Kubis said, adding that if it proved correct, Slovakia would officially meet all requirements. Some suggest that this could be announced during the Slovak president's visit to the White House in early October.

Apart from Slovakia, other EU member states Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and the Czech Republic are also expected to achieve visa-free access to the US, diplomats say.

Earlier this year, the group of seven countries signed a so-called memorandum of understanding - a document outlining new US travel security demands. They, amongst other requirements, would have passengers obtain electronic authorisation to travel before they leave for the US.

Currently, 15 EU states enjoy easy travel across the Atlantic - so-called Old Europe (except Greece) and Slovenia.

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