According to CNN and Globe & Mail, the EU is considering suspending its visa waiver program for US and Canadian citizens because citizens of some EU countries require a visa. This includes, Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania for the US. Romanians and Bulgarians still require them for Canada. “The objective here is to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states and this is a priority for the European Union,” said Mina Andreeva, a spokesperson for the European Commission. The US claims that the EU countries in question do not meet the objective standards that we have imposed for overstays. This is based on the percentage of citizens from that country are guilty overstaying their visas. The US criteria include:
-Has an annual nonimmigrant visitor visa (i.e., B visa) refusal rate of less than three percent, or a lower average percentage over the previous two fiscal years;
-Accepts the repatriation of its citizens, former citizens, and nationals ordered removed from the United States within three weeks of the final order of removal;
-Enters into an agreement to report lost and stolen passport information to the United States via INTERPOL or other means designated by the Secretary;
-Enters into an agreement with the United States to share terrorism and serious criminal information;
-Issues electronic, machine-readable passports with biometric identifiers;
-Undergoes a DHS-led evaluation of the effects of the country’s VWP designation on the security, law enforcement, and –Immigration enforcement interests of the United States; and
-Undergoes, in conjunction with the DHS-led evaluation, an independent intelligence assessment produced by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (on behalf of the Director of National Intelligence).
The US says that it is maintaining a dialogue with these countries and working with them to bringing them into compliance with these criteria. The UU mission to the EU noted that any proposal by the European Commission to introduce such visas could later be overruled by the European Parliament or the European Council. The Council consists of the leader of the 28 member states. They could act on the grounds of foreign policy and out of a desire to insure fast passage of the new US/EU trade agreement known as “TTIP.” Trade negotiations between Brussels and Washington are at a crucial point since both sides believe their transatlantic agreement has better chance of passing before President Obama leaves the White House in January of 2017. Given the sagging Euro, pragmatic considerations concerning European tourism might secretly filter into this mix.
Canada’s visa policy is also not based on reciprocity, but does require a determination that citizens of that country are generally in compliance with the terms of the exemption. Additionally most visitors to Canada (US citizens and nationals excluded) need to comply with Canada’s new ETA system.
European countries are also looking to introduce a new system that will log visitors’ photos and fingerprints. That plan is part of a push by European countries to fight terrorism and enhance security.