EU gives US six months to come clean on visa policy


EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission has told the United States to lift visa requirements on Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia, whose citizens still need an entry permit to travel to the country.

The citizens of most EU countries travel without visas to a list of foreign countries, listed in annex II of Council Regulation No 539/2001.

But the nationals of some new EU member states still need a visa to travel to countries such as the United States, Canada or Australia.

A regulation which entered into force on 20 December requires EU countries to "react in common" on visa matters, especially in cases where foreign countries "subjects [EU] citizens to differing treatment”.

If within six months the problem is not solved, the EU could introduce visas for US diplomats, the Commission warned.

But diplomats of the countries concerned told EurActiv they would continue to negotiate bilaterally to solve the problem.

New EU regulation on visa matters

According to the new regulation, the Commission can temporarily suspend the EU's own visa exemptions on foreign countries if they have not lifted their visa requirements within six month.

The Commission has warned in the past that such rules may force American diplomats to apply for visas to travel to the European Union, if Washington doesn’t lift the visa requirement for individual EU countries (see background).

The new legislation is an initiative of the European Parliament, which in a 2012 report drew a list of third countries maintaining visa requirements on some EU countries.

Canada requires visas for nationals of Bulgaria and Romania, while Australia in theory applies a unified system of treatment of visa requests to all EU countries, but its visa grant to nationals of Bulgaria and Romania is by far the lowest.

According to MEPs, the Lisbon Treaty gives new powers to the Union to request that its member countries are treated as a whole and that the USA reciprocates on visa policy.

US pressure on data exchange

The four EU countries were reportedly asked by Washington to sign certain bilateral agreements as a precondition for benefitting from the US Visa Waiver Program.

One of them is a 2003 provision for the exchange of terrorism screening information (HSPD-6), which called for the establishment of a single consolidated watchlist to improve the identification, screening, and tracking of known or suspected terrorists and their supporters [more].

Another is the agreement on Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PSCS), requiring signatory countries to share biometric and other data of individuals, for the purpose of preventing, detecting and investigating serious criminal activity and terrorism, on a query basis. The US has signed such agreements with a number of EU countries already.

But the European Commission is reportedly not happy that individual countries sign data exchange agreements with the USA in the absence of a so-called EU-US Umbrella Agreement on data protection, which ensures EU citizens keep their rights when their data is processed in the US.

Diplomats from the countries lacking reciprocity in their visa affairs told EurActiv that their capitals would notify the Commission of their situation with third countries before the deadline of 9 February.

According to the new regulation, if the US still applies visas for those countries 90 days following notification, the Commission may decide to suspend EU visa exemption for “certain categories of US nationals”, a jargon term referring to holders of diplomatic passports.

However, diplomats said they would pursue bilateral negotiations as well, suggesting they did not put too much hope in the EU common effort.

Indeed, when the new regulation was adopted in December, it was accompanied by a statement by several member states who said that while raising the issue, the EU countries would also “take into account potential adverse political consequences that might arise from such proposals or decisions for the external relations, both of the Union and its Member States”.

“This applies in particular to external relations with strategic partners,” says the statement, signed by Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, but also Poland, a country under US visa requirement.

  • 9 Feb.: Deadline for the EU countries who are still under visa requirement to notify the Commission on their situation;
  • March: EU countries can ask the Commission that the EU suspends the visa exemption for certain categories of US nationals;
  • June: At the latest six months after publication of the regulation, the Commission may decide that the suspension of the visa obligation should take effect.
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John's picture

Always threatening and always wasteful. Expanding the EU without consulting the implications with trading partners is bad policy.

adela's picture

Why not introduce Visa for Americans who travel in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia till US clean their visa policy for that countries? it would be fair.

bogdan's picture


Romanians and Bulgarians they even need a transit visa in Australia on the way to New Zealand for example. Though you dont leave the tranzit area of the airport you still need to obtain that visa and go through all the immigration process otherwise you are not allowed to board the flight. It s something unheard and we are probably the last 2 countries on earth to get this embarrassing treatment.


Marcel's picture


gabi's picture

@Marcel: Please, do not use all capitals in your coments. It's like yelling at soemone, it is anoying. On the other hand, the EU did not wake up, most member states do not want to suspend the exemption, just because four of them still need visas (read the last paragraph). And let's face it, there are huge problems with corruption, at least in Romania (with this I am familiar), and until it is not solved, no wonder that visas are required. Until people keep voting ex-communists who try their best to hide all their crimes erase their informant past and keep their people out of the reach of law and prison, things will not change. And I think this is completely normal. I don't want my fellow Romanians to go to other contries, commit crimes just to give more reason for foreigners to generalize and hate all Romanians.

Bulgarian's picture

The EU has dubble-standarts for its citizens, depending on where in Eu they are born.The politics of Briuxel are addressed for the "old" members and nobody ceares about the others.Bulgaria is a 1400 years old country and IS in Europe.The fact that the"great forces"decided to put us in the communist part of Europe by the Berlin wall dos not make us in any way second hand.

Bulgarian's picture

I wonder for what reason we are in a union that is not fighting for our rights the same way as for the"old members".This is a dubble-standart for the different countrys.This explains way Ukraine dos not want to get in such"Union".Maybe we have made a mistake thinking that we will be treated the same as the others and this from countrys that colonized half the world.

bogdan's picture

we have to be honest with ourselves and understand that in some points we can not be treated equal as we are not at equal level of will eventually happen but is a long process and I belive both of us romanians and bulgarians we can see results. Brussels dont treat us from the history books to see that tracian people are older like ancient greece or more they treat us by economic and justice level of development and there is still lot of work to do in here. We need pacience and trust in EU. We have to think of the future of our childrens. East of Europe has great energy and desire in the young generations for work and growth as west has only desire for fun and parties.Is just a matter of time to get to the same level or even greater though maybe we ll not live long enough to see it.

bogdan's picture

most important is to stick together and fight euroscepticism that is growing all over Europe now. Globalisation is not waiting for european states to go over their testosteron, frustrations and stupid nationalism. It s a process that started since the beginnig of humankind, groups joining together and get tribes, tribes to make regions, regions to make countries, countries to make superpowers and eventually all planet end up under the same social sistem etc etc. Like it or not this is the future, natural evolution, expansion in the univers etc...but this is a different topic..

If not together Europe and life style of western world is like a plate with cookies in front of hungry big babies like Russia and China ( silly comparition I was thinking of my kids and nephewes finishing a plate with home made cookies :) we will go easy one by one under the east corrupt influence and farewell democracy, freedom of expresion, of speach, of travel etc etc. So pacience and look to the future cos it s ours to build it :)

Bulgarian's picture

Bogdan,I am sorry to sey it but if you really think like that,you probably do not live here.Just to let you know the young and educated generetion has left the contry already and now works for the economy of "Rich old members"-ower doctors amd menagers.The fact that we have been under osman rule for 500 years when most of these countrys had colonis from which they took tones of gold,silver and other goods,by theway by African SLAVES.Every thinking man knows that these countrys are not rich by working from sunrise and we can never rich the level of there economy with no help.Maybe you know how much Western Germany invested in Estern Germany and they still cant get to the same level of development.

Bulgarian's picture

Dont get me rong I am not against EU.I am against the dubble standarts in the Union.The salaries in Bulgaria are from 10 to 20 times less than in the other countrys and I am shure they dont work 20 times more than us.

bogdan's picture

EU is not a country with a unifed budget so they are not responsible of teacher wages in Romania lets say! Is the government of Romania making a budget every year from whatever they colect and pay wages to employees. for private companies is a diferent story they pay wahtever they can afford.
If EU will be a single big state, yes we can go to Brussels and ask for higher wages but until than I go protest in Bucharest you in Sofia!

and you said actually very well :) it s true Germany for example has 20 times more money than Romania, GDP of 3500 billion usd compared with 170 bil. so german goverment can afford to pay teachers 20 times more than romanian government. But again, this has nothing to do with European Union which is a completly different structure with separate budget meant to eliminate these differences in time.

Help is coming constantly from the small budget of EU going to all countries from East Europe to catch up with development.for example for 2014 to 2020 or so romania gets smthing like 33 bilion euro. a very small part from this money I get it too... FOR FREE so I can develop my small little business. Ofcourse you need to make a bussiness plan and prove that you ll properlly use this money. They can not give free money just like that cos you know very well how is it and they will probably end up in pockets of some corrupt politicians.

the east gets help with funds like this with jobs for milions of people. the west gets help too with cheaper labour, new markets to develop bussiness etc. It s reciprocal and no point in start blaiming eachother.

What else they can do? EU can not go to germany, france etc and start knock the doors and beg for money to give to romanians, polish etc...Put your self in their skin.if you ll be a german you ll give a penny out of your pocket just like that so some romanians have a better life?

But let s not make this confussion anymore. EU is not a country. it is a different organism with separate budget.
They try to convince us live by the same laws so maybe one day will get to have a sigle state.something like United States. Hard job but pray they ll make it somehow otherwise me and you and our kids my friend will end up cleaning toilets of some russians oligarhia :)))

bogdan's picture

I do live here after 12 years working all over Europe and more... I met great, nice, big hearted people, real gentelmens from which I learned enormous especially about respect for others, for work and property...stuff like this that comunist regims erased from our mentality in the east.

I met bad people, nationalism & rasism, usually low educated, poor frustrated people, plenty of them in there too...

All doctors, engineers are gone and happy.Some they stay some they return, its a personal choice. Posibilities are endless now, help is waiting if you re serious and work hard.You can choose to live wherever you want.People are similar everywhere some bad some good with a bit more nice people west of Berlin wall :) now with so much choices our success or failure is more of a personal matter, is not Romania, Bulgaria or EU to blame. EU just made all of it possible so from my point of view all I can say is Thank you! (cos until 14 years of age I was waiting half a day in a line for a black bread thanks to mama Russia and her bolsheviks)

bogdan's picture

so my dear bulgarian I dont know why you think that we get a different treatment from the rest of other European countries.
wages no point talk about as is not EU paying them...all I can think is Schengen space, and these visas for US, etc. for both of these problems EU should put more pressure to be settled.

Schengen is already a telenovela of some political parties in some countries trying to get votes on shamefull rasist speach... and US and the rest understand will be no migartion wave anymore as who wanted to go is already gone

Bulgarian's picture

It is becoming a nice conversation based on facts.I like to argue with smart people like you but the dubble standard is a fact.Even the land subsides for the fermers,that are directlly given by the EU even when not one counrty are a few times less for Bulgaria.There are restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian workers in UK and Niderland.I sow on the news in France the goverment put a few hundred Romanian citizens on planes and transported them back to Bucharest against there own will,I never sow this happen to English citizens for example.I know that the main polici of the Union is the freedom of travel,live and work were you want.The fact that in the same situation a cuple of years ago,but with other countrys like Poland,the EU had alot more harden position than now,the visas must fall for all its citizens.This is not true for us,I gues dear friend.

Bulgarian's picture

They even dont hide it.I remember an idea that they had named"Europ on two speeds' but thanks to the other new members they let it go.

Bulgarian's picture

A fact from today is that some Europian commisares want to sanction Bulgaria for not provaiding good conditions for the Syrian emigrants.But dont care that half of the Bulgarians live under the line of poverty and cant pay their electrcity bills and dont have elementery living conditions aldow they go to work every day.Yes there is no mestake they are "working poor"-a term that exists only here,I have never heard it even in the Middle East.

Bulgarian's picture

I am a realist it is very hard to develop a small bussinnes in a country where half of the population is called "WORKING POOR'and the banks charge us with 10-12%
Interest.In the 'other Europe' the same banks charge 2-6% maximum.The comercial gas is 2 times more expensive tham in Germany and on all they obligate us to bay green energy that is times more expensive than ouer own we produce in Kozlodui.

Bulgarian's picture

EU is not one country but made rules that are for all the members,about the human treatment of animals like pigs and chickens-toys to play and space to live but close the eyes for the 6 gays that put themselves on fire and burned to death last year becouse of the misery they lived in.

Bulgarian's picture

If you read the article you mey understand me better I hope

Bulgarian's picture

We dont want something for free.We only ask for a real chance of development when we work hard and not feel like white slaves.I know very well what you are speaking about standing in line for bread.We had 300% inflation in 1997 and the stores were empty.I was 18 years old but in the first lines when we occupied the parlament and kicked the commonists out.When we where accepted as a member of EU I was full of hope.Now I am just dissapointed of the end results,because most of my friends live all around the world and even if Me and You make it some how,I still fill bad for the other poor people I see in the streets in 21 ct.-Europe.

Naum's picture

It is a shame that EU has double standards for its citizens. We all know what is the truth. Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, Croats are the new labor force of EU - willing to work double shift for half the pay of their German and French counterparts. That is why EU and US are never going to defend their rights. Because they view them as simple immigration labor force. Those are the ones that are going to toll in the mines, work dirty labor despite their diplomas and get paid a fraction of what their own citizens get paid. The truth is immigration is the real spur for economic growth, and both EU and US are playing dumb. Especially with social benefits.

for adela's picture

From your logic I can make the supposition that you are a communist. The whole idea is that in the EU it's all for one and one for all. On one hand, I don't think Romania fully deserves to be in the EU, but on the other I think they should be allowed to go to the US only with their ID. Why? Because of the NATO alliance and the shield at Deveselu.

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