EU urges Washington to extend visa-free travel to new members

  • 2006-01-18
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - The European Union has appealed to Washington to expedite efforts to extend visa-free travel to the union's 10 new members.
According to a European Commission report, the United States, Canada and Australia have made no progress in signing mutual agreements on the abolition of visas with EU newcomers.

"The member countries do not want to open debates with the United States, Canada or Australia, and neither do we [the European Commission]," EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frantini told reporters at a meeting of EU justice ministers in Vienna.

But Frattini admitted that the countries in question had legitimate security concerns.

The commission, the executive arm of the EU, would like to see progress by July when a new report is filed, and may theoretically recommend sanctions.

Of old EU member countries, the visa-freedom regime of the United States does not embrace Greece. Nor have U.S. visas been abolished for any of the new member countries, save for Slovenia.

The United States does not require visas from citizens of other EU member countries if they have machine-readable passports.

Washington has admitted the need to solve the issue and has taken steps to extend visa-free travel to East European countries.

Last year, the Baltic states and the United States set up working groups to discuss the issue. In Estonia, the working group has had three meetings so far, the last of them in November when U.S. Consul Rodger Dauerlein said the Estonian passport was technologically cutting-edge and reliable.

The Baltic states meet nearly all the terms required to accede to the U.S. visa freedom program, but the percentage of visa rejections continues to be too high for U.S. officials to warrant doing away with the visa requirement.