Sun, Mar 05, 2017 - Page 4 News List

EU mulls altering US visa rules

NY Times News Service, BRUSSELS

The European Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution calling for the reintroduction of visa requirements for US citizens, raising the stakes in a long-running battle over the US’ refusal to grant visa-free access to citizens of five EU countries.

In the vote on Thursday, European lawmakers played tit-for-tat in their dispute with the US, demanding restrictions on US travelers unless the administration of US President Donald Trump lifts travel requirements for citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.

“You’re talking about citizens from countries, like Poland, with a major diaspora” in the US, said Claude Moraes, the British lawmaker who leads the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament, in a telephone interview on Friday. “You’re really seeing frustration and anger, and without any timetable, this is becoming increasingly seen as second-class treatment.”

The resolution was an important political signal and it increases pressure on the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, to confront the new administration in Washington, even though it might prove to be as intransigent on the matter as the administration of former US president Barack Obama, if not more.

The European Parliament also said that it could take the further step of bringing the European Commission to court if it continues not to stand up to Washington.

“Only when the US fully gets that the European Commission is going to act are we going to get any kind of timetable from the United States,” Moraes said. “At the moment, the US just believes the commission is not going to act, but stick with the pragmatic argument that doing so would create damage that’s just too great.”

He said, referring to Washington, “There’s no denying heightened concern about the current administration, but that’s more about uncertainty about who’s in charge and how the [US] State Department is working.”

Moraes said the civil liberties committee could still recommend that a case against the commission’s failure to act be brought to the bloc’s highest tribunal, the Court of Justice of the EU.

“It’s a question of using what options are open to us,” he said, explaining the possible resort to litigation.

In Thursday’s vote, the Parliament gave the European Commission two months to take legal measures to impose visas for US travelers to the EU unless the US offered reciprocity to all citizens from the bloc.

European officials in Brussels have balked at making travel to Europe more difficult for Americans, saying doing so would have an economic cost and would most likely not even resolve the hurdles facing citizens of the five affected countries.

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