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Bush hints about changes in visa regime for Eastern Europe

  • 2005-02-23
  • By The Baltic Times
BRATISLAVA/VILNIUS 's U.S. President George W. Bush last week hinted about possible changes in the U.S. visa policy in regard to Central and East European countries.

He told a press conference in the Slovakian capital that he was aware of East Europeans' desire to see the United States' visa regime softened.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda "was very strong about reminding me that he wants there to be a different visa policy, a better visa policy for the citizens of Slovakia. He made the case very clearly on behalf of the citizens of Slovakia. I listened very closely to what he had to say. I told him that we will work with the Slovakian government to reform the visa policy."

Bush added that he could not say when the changes to the visa policy would be approved.

It is expected that following the statement seven Central and Eastern European countries, including the Baltics, will be proposed an action plan, upon implementation of which visa requirements for trips to the country would be waived in the future, the Baltic News Service reported.

The plan should stipulate specific actions that the U.S. and Eastern and Central European countries would have to take to cancel visa requirements for them. The Baltics will first have to reduce the number of citizens who are in violation of the effective visa regime 's i.e. who do not return home once their tourist U.S. visa has expired.

Last year Lithuanian Ambassador in Washington Vygaudas Usackas initiated formal diplomatic consultations with the United States regarding the lifting of the visa regime for Lithuanian citizens.

Lithuanian officials claim the application of a visa-free regime in regard to its citizens would reflect the current strategic U.S.-Central European relations, would meet expectations of Lithuanian and Central European citizens to travel freely, and would remove discriminatory practices, currently applied to the citizens of new EU member states.