MEPs Call for Ban on Visa-Free Travel to EU by US Citizens

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are calling to the European Commission for the temporary abolition of visa-free travel for US citizens to the EU, according to a press release published by the European Parliament.

The temporary abolition is called for, amongst other possible things, because the US has not fulfilled complete reciprocity with the EU, in which US citizens can travel to visa-free for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.

Citizens of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, and Croatia must still have visas in order to travel to the US, even for short stays of 90 days or less within a 180-day period.

“Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot and Romanian nationals are still required to hold a visa to enter the US, while all other EU citizens are exempt from that requirement for short-stays (up to 90 days in any 180-day period), as are US nationals when they visit the European Union,” the press release reads.

A resolution was put forward in the Parliament to urge the commission to make the change in visa procedures. The vote was adopted with a vote of 376 in favor, 269 not in favor, and 43 abstentions.

If the ban on visa-free travel to the US is adopted by the Commission, it will be valid for 12 months before further action is taken. According to EU protocol, if a third country is notified formally of a lack of visa reciprocity, it will have 24 months to respond in kind, otherwise a 12-month ban on visa-free travel will be adopted.

“According to EU legislation, if a third country does not lift visa requirements within 24 months of being formally notified of a situation of non-reciprocity, the EU Commission must adopt a legal act suspending the visa waiver for its nationals for 12 months. Both the European Parliament and Council could object to such an act (Article 290(2) of the Treaty),” the press release reads.

On 12 April 2014 the issue of non-reciprocity with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Croatia, and Poland was raised to the US. The US did allow for visa-free travel for Polish citizens, however, there were no permissions granted for the rest of the aforementioned nationalities.

Some have called the actions of the US discriminatory towards nationals of the citizens of Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, and Croatia and have called for solidarity of not only an EU-US partnership, but also the solidarity of Member States to act.

“The discrimination that Bulgarians, Croatians, Cypriots and Romanians experience when travelling to the US is unacceptable. Respecting the fundamental principle of solidarity among EU members, we call on the Commission to act as established in European legislation and table a proposal to suspend the visa waiver for US nationals. It will then be up to the Parliament and the Council to assess the political consequences of this move”, said Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur.

The US has yet to respond to the calls from the Parliament. The Commission also has yet to publicly announce their decision on the matter.

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