U.S. to lift visa requirement for Baltics

  • 2008-10-18
  • TBT Staff in cooperation with BNS

The Baltics have been trying to establish a visa free regime with the U.S. for years.

WASHINGTON 'sU.S. President George W. Bush has announced that the country will lift the visarequirement for the three Baltic states.

Bush said that travelers from the Baltics, Slovakia,Hungary, the Czech Republic and South Korea would no longer need visas to travelto the United States.

"Today's announcement means that a new chapter betweenthe US andthese countries has been opened, proving our close friendship ties. It is animportant achievement," the U.S.president said in a televised address Friday.

"I am thankful that both parties have supported theinitiative at the Congress to adopt the law that would allow joining of newcountries to the visa free program... I am thankful to the representatives of theUS and ourallies, who have worked hard to conclude these agreements and to fulfill thenew requirements," he said.

Spokesmen from the Baltic states havesaid that the visa free regime would most likely be implemented sometime inmid-November.

The Baltics have long struggled with meeting therequirements laid out by the U.S.in order for the country to establish a visa free regime 's particularly thestipulation that the visa refusal rate is less than 10 percent.

Baltic leaders praised the announcement and said that itsymbolized strengthened ties between the countries.

"The introduction of a visa-free regime will further strengthentransatlantic ties and strategic partnership and promote cultural and businesscontacts between our two countries and their people," Lithuanian PresidentValdas Adamkus said in a statement issued shortly after Bush's announcement.

"It should be understood symbolically, politically andpractically. I believe that President Bush stated his sympathy to the CentralEuropean countries and their progress. Bush is a person, who in essence speakshis mind. He says what he feels. What he said was not a diplomatic politenessor a symbolic gesture," Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins said.

Citizens of those countries that have joined the U.S. VisaWaiver program are eligible to stay in the U.S.for up to three months without visas. Those, however, who want to go to the U.S.to work or study, still need a visa.