Lithuania takes next step on U.S. visa waiver path

  • 2008-03-18
  • By Mike Collier

WASHINGTON -- On 17 March, Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S.A. Audrius Brūzga andthe U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff signed aMemorandum of Understanding regardingthe implementation of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program requirements andrelated enhanced security measures.

"In Lithuania we honestly believe in the values of a free societyand its advantages. A possibility to freely travel is an importantprecondition of such a society. It would be difficult to find betterpartners in strategic cooperation issues than Europe and the UnitedStates of America, therefore, our people should take advantage of everybenefit of such a partnership," said Ambassador Brūzga after thesigning ceremony.

The Memorandum of Understanding is a document of politicalintentions, describing the determination of both parties to start a closecooperation, so that Lithuania could join the U.S. Visa Waiver Programas quickly as possible.

The U.S.'s practise of negotiating directly with individual EU member states has raised hackles in Brussels, where officials had been hoping to present a united front in order to secure a pan-European visa scheme. However, all three Baltic states have entered into unilateral arrangements already, at various stages of progress.

This Memorandum is not an agreement announcing theintroduction of a visa-free regime. The signing of the Memorandum isonly the first step. Aconcrete date of the actual visa requirement lifting is not mentioned.

In April a delegation of experts of the U.S. Department of HomelandSecurity intend to visit Vilnius. During this visit, it is intended toagree on the ways and terms of implementation of concrete principlesthat are set out in the Memorandum, seeking to introduce a visa-freeregime with the U.S.A.

Slovakia and Hungary signed Memorandums together with Lithuania. TheCzech Republic, Estonia and Latvia have signed the Memorandum already.