Wednesday

22nd May 2019

MEPs disagree with US on visas and tourist tax

  • Europeans traveling to the US will soon have to pay a ten-dollar tourist fee (Photo: Wikipedia)

The US will continue to treat EU members on a bilateral basis in its visa regime, but will review its passenger data policy towards Europeans, interior minister Janet Napolitano told MEPs on Friday (6 November).

Current US legislation does not allow the Obama administration to lift visa requirements for the five remaining EU countries which are still outside the so-called Visa Waiver programme, Ms Napolitano said in a meeting with EU lawmakers dealing with justice and home affairs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Several MEPs had requested a rethink of the US visa policy towards European states, so that all EU citizens are treated equally. Citizens from Poland, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania are required to apply for a tourist visa if they want to travel to the US, while citizens from all other member states do not have to.

But Ms Napolitano warned the EU legislature to "be careful what it asks for," as there are numerous voices in Congress that want to scrap the visa waiver scheme altogether, citing security concerns.

"We certainly share the view that visa waivers are very important parts of our relationship, but there is a possibility that the entire programme will be subject to a legislative challenge," she said.

A chance for US lawmakers who want the scheme scrapped will occur at the end of this year, when a review of the so-called exit programme is due. Congress has linked lifting the visa requirements for further countries to the setting up of this system which screens and fingerprints people as they leave the US.

Ms Napolitano admitted that the "exit programme" has an important impact on the visa waiver scheme and promised to hold an "intensive dialogue" in the coming months with the European partners.

British Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford said that if the exit programme is not given a green light on cost grounds, "we don't know what will happen to the remaining five EU countries for which the visa regime has not been lifted yet."

"The US administration would need to go back to Congress and say the pillars on which the visa waiver legislation stands can't exist. It won't be the European's responsibility that the criteria for lifting the visa requirements are not met," she told this website.

Speaking about those EU countries which do not need visas, but have to share passenger data with the US administration, Ms Napolitano said she was in favour of reviewing the agreements with eleven EU states on sharing passengers data.

She reassured MEPs that the data was only being used in investigations of terrorism or other serious international crimes.

Tourist tax

Another area of disagreement between EU lawmakers and the American official was the upcoming 'ten-dollar tax' to be levied on every tourist travelling to the US starting next year. The tax is necessary to fund a non-profit company aimed at promoting tourism, she said.

"Unlike some of the European countries, the US do not have in place a separate agency to promote tourism and travel. In these days of reduced budgets, this is the only way to fund that," Ms Napolitano argued.

It is very likely that Mr Obama would approve the bill, despite threats from the European side to introduce "reciprocal" measures.

The tourism-promotion bill was introduced in the US Senate by the Democratic majority leader Harry Reid, who next year stands for a tight re-election in the state of Nevada, home of US tourism and gambling mecca Las Vegas.

As Mr Reid is seen as a key figure for passing important legislation on health care and climate change, the Obama administration is not moving against the tourist tax, despite criticism from international partners.

US to screen foreign air passengers

Washington is set to electronically collect data on all European travellers, who currently enjoy visa-free regime with the United States. An online registration system, first kicking-in in a voluntary regime, will ask for a number of personal data, including health.

EU and US seal extradition pact

The EU and the US have signed a judicial co-operation agreement allowing European countries to refuse to extradite criminals who may be sentenced to the death penalty.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

EU justice 'barometer' hindered by data gaps

Some member states continue to impede the European Commission's annual attempt to define the state of Europe's justice system, by not providing data on their national situations.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us