Citizens of the United States will continue to enjoy visa-free travel to European Union countries for the foreseeable future. Last week, the European Commission indefinitely delayed any action on the March 3, 2017, request from the European Parliament to suspend the visa-free scheme for U.S. nationals due to the U.S. refusal to open its own visa-free scheme to the EU member states of Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania.
Citizens of all other EU member states currently enjoy visa-free travel to the U.S. However, to date, the U.S. has not extended that same privilege to citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania. U.S. State Department officials maintain that those nations have been unable to meet the minimum security requirements in order to be admitted to the visa-free program. This has long been a bone of contention between the U.S. and the EU, but the issue seemed to come to a head this year when Australia, Canada, Brunei, and Japan capitulated to similar demands by the EU, leaving the U.S. as the sole hold-out refusing to open its visa-free program to the remaining four European nations.
“Tit-for-Tat” Visa War Avoided for Now
At the time of our earlier writing, Newland Chase saw the potential for the action on the part of the Commission, but believed it unlikely any time soon given the huge economic interests at stake for both sides should a tit-for-tat diplomatic “visa war” ensue. However, given the rising nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic, the issue gave us pause and reason to watch the developments closely.
Apparently, cool and level heads have prevailed, at least for the time being. Referring to the Parliament’s request for suspension of the U.S. visa-free travel privilege to Europe, the EU Commission stated that doing so,
“…would be counterproductive at this moment, and would not serve the objective of achieving visa-free travel for all EU citizens. On the contrary, it would immediately result in retaliatory measures by the U.S., leading to the visa requirement being imposed on all E.U. citizens.”
While negative action appears to have been averted for now, diplomats from both sides reportedly continue to discuss the issue, and the Commission has promised to report back to the Parliament by year end on the progress. Ideally, the intervening months will involve the EU and the U.S. cooperatively supporting the four nations in their efforts to meet the U.S. visa-free program requirements. Free mobility between the U.S. and Europe remains in everyone’s best interests.