Traveling to Europe? No Visas Needed – Yet

Entry and exit stamps in a U.S. Passport(CN) – The European Commission on Tuesday balked at EU lawmakers’ calls to suspend visa-free travel for U.S. citizens, citing diplomatic efforts with the Trump administration for full visa-waiver reciprocity on both sides of the Atlantic.

For years, U.S. citizens have enjoyed traveling to and within the European Union without needing a visa to do so. Many European citizens can visit the United States visa-free as well, save the unfortunate souls from five EU states – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.

Canada had similar restrictions on travelers from Bulgaria and Romania. But late last year, the Canadian government set a timeline for full visa-waiver reciprocity and on Monday lifted visa requirements on some categories of travelers.

Years of negotiations with the United States have proven less fruitful, however. Accordingly, EU lawmakers have been chomping at the bit to start requiring visas for U.S. citizens as payback – a move the commission has repeatedly opposed as bad for tourism, trade and diplomacy, not to mention a headache to implement.

In March, the European Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the commission to suspend visa exemptions for any nations that do not grant reciprocal visa waivers to citizens of all EU states – and gave the commission two months to respond.

On Tuesday, the commission told lawmakers to be patient.

“During the last months, contacts with U.S. interlocutors at the political and technical level were intensified. The United States reconfirmed its commitment to admit the five EU member states into the program once they meet all the requirements set out by U.S. legislation,” the commission said in a statement.

Why the United States requires travelers from those five EU states to have visas – but not visitors from Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Czech Republic or others previously behind the Iron Curtain – is a bit of a mystery.

According to the State Department website, in order for nations to be included in the U.S. visa-waiver program, they must: have enhanced law enforcement and security-related data-sharing with the United States; issue e-passports; have a visitor-visa refusal rate of less than 3 percent; have a system in place to timely report both blank and lost or stolen passports; and maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control and document-security standards.

The State Department also notes that “meeting the objective requirements of the visa-waiver program does not guarantee a country will receive visa-waiver program designation.”

The commission said it continues to meet with U.S. officials and that a joint statement will be made in June.

Meanwhile, it told EU lawmakers it will report on further developments by the end of the year.

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