The European Commission said on December 19 that it would “intensify” contacts with the United States to achieve full visa reciprocity for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.
Citizens of the other 23 EU member states may visit the US visa-free.
A fundamental principle of EU visa policy is to ensure that non-EU countries on the visa-free list grant a reciprocal visa waiver to citizens of all EU countries. To support this objective, a visa reciprocity mechanism was set up.
The number of non-reciprocity cases has been vastly reduced in the last three-and-a-half years, with the US now being the only country in the EU’s visa-free list which does not grant visa-free access to all EU citizens, the Commission said.
Full visa reciprocity was achieved with Canada after it lifted visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens as of December 1 2017. Similar results were already achieved with Australia, Brunei and Japan.
In a progress report on December 19, the European Commission said that visa reciprocity was discussed at all official meetings between the EU and the US, including the two recent EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial meetings – held in Sofia in May 2018 and in Washington DC in November 2018.
European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Achieving visa reciprocity for all EU member states is our top priority. Recent experience shows that a continued diplomatic engagement brings positive results and we will stick to this approach also with the United States.
“Visa-free travel is in the interest of both sides of the Atlantic, and we expect concrete actions on all sides to accelerate progress to achieve this,” Avramopoulos said.
The Commission will continue to actively support the member states concerned, including through financial assistance, and to work closely with them to help them fulfil the requirements of the US Visa Waiver Program, the statement said.
“The Commission maintains its position that co-operation and joint diplomatic engagement is the most appropriate way forward.”
The Commission still considers that adopting a delegated act temporarily suspending the visa waiver for US citizens “would be counterproductive at this moment and would not help achieve visa-free travel for all EU citizens”.
“This position can be reviewed in light of future developments,” the Commission said, repeating what it said a year earlier.
(Photo: Damian Bariexca via flickr.com)