AFP - Europe seeks common visa deal with US
Europe seeks common visa deal with US
1 day ago
BRUSSELS (AFP) — The EU's Slovenian presidency said Thursday it hoped to persuade the United States not to strike separate deals with member states on visa-free travel and instead to hold talks on a bloc-wide basis.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, speaking before meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the European Union wanted all member states to share in an American visa waiver programme.
But Rupel, whose country holds the Union's rotating presidency, said: "On the other hand we have some reservations regarding the memoranda of understanding the US wants to conclude with individual member states.
"We hope for a positive response from the United States," he added, while promising that the subject would "discussed more thoroughly" at a meeting of European interior ministers on March 13.
The subject of the United States' visa regime has become a hot topic in Brussels since Washington and the Czech Republic struck a bilateral agreement on security measures for flights last month.
The deal was part of Prague's efforts to enter a visa waiver programme that would lift visa requirements for its citizens travelling to the United States.
Visa reciprocity between EU nations and outside countries is within the jurisdiction of the European Commission, which managed to strike an agreement with Washington last June.
The pact allowed for the transfer of personal information about passengers flying from Europe to the United States, a security measure which Washington mandated as part of its so-called "war on terror".
The deal also includes a visa waiver but this is currently only enjoyed by 15 EU nations. The other, mainly newer, EU nations including the Czechs are still obliged to obtain visas even for a short stay in the US.
Prague, therefore, signed a separate deal with Washington which went beyond the EU-US terms, which allow for 19 categories of data about people to be given to US authorities, kept for 15 years and shared with law enforcement agencies.