VILNIUS - U.S. House of Representatives Republican Jim Kolbe, in town for a visit this week, said that the United States was likely to lift the visa regime for Lithuanian citizens "quite soon."
Kolbe, who headed the House delegation, told reporters on Oct. 11 that many Congressmen would like Lithuania to have a visa-free regime, as the country has made enormous progress in democratic and economic development.
During his Oct. 10 meeting with U.S. lawmakers, President Valdas Adamkus said that Lithuania was making every effort to meet the requirements of the U.S. visa-free regime as soon as possible.
Visas are a hot-button issue for all three Baltic states, but particularly in Lithuania, which has the largest diaspora in the United States.
Seeking to provide its citizens with the possibility to travel without a visa, Lithuania is taking part in the U.S. Visa Waiver Roadmap plan proposed by President George W. Bush during his visit to Slovakia on Feb. 24, 2005.
The plan, prepared by the U.S. State Department, provides for the possibility to apply the current visa waiver program to citizens of Central and East European countries who have recently become EU members.
Lithuania has unilaterally been applying a visa-free regime to U.S. citizens since 1994.
Otherwise, the purpose of the Congressmen's visit to Lithuania was to discuss democratic development in the region, U.S. assistance programs to NATO allies, and Lithuania's strong contribution to the global war on terror.
In addition to Kolbe, who represents Arizona, other members of the delegation included Martin Sabo (Democrat-Minnesota), John Carter (Republican-Texas), James Moran (Democrat-Virginia), Dennis Rehberg (Republican-Montana) and John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), a leading figure in the U.S. Baltic community.