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Hopes high for visa-free regime

  • 2007-07-30
  • By TBT staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON - A bill adopted by the US Congress providing for the conditions of visa-free entrance to the U.S. is "a step in the correct direction," but actual visa-free travel is unlikely before 2008-09, the Latvian ambassador to the US said July 28.

Ambassador Andrejs Pildegovics said: "Adoption of this document is… a step in the correct direction, but it is not the final decision. It is good that the bill is accepted, but its implementation will need time on all sides - the US and Latvian governments and the European Commission," said Pildegovics, adding that "none of the new EU member states can hope for visa-free regime to come in effect in the next few months."

"Concerted action will be necessary through the European Commission and in direct interaction wih the U.S. It is important how the law will be implemented.. The experts think that it could need approximately one year. The realistic time frame could be the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009," said Pildegovics.

The congress decision includes quotas that visa-free candidate countries must reach in order to be granted visa free status. For example, the proportion of applicants denied visas cannot exceed 10 percent 's a considerable loosening of the previous 3 percent figure. For the bill to become effective, it still needs to be ratified by the President George Bush.

Last week Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet expressed similar hopes that visa-free travel to the U.S. would soon be a reality.