March 12, 2008


Estonia, Latvia Sign Visa-Waiver Deals with US (Der Spiegel, 3/12/08)

Impatient at the slow pace of European Union negotiations, two Baltic states are setting up their own deals with the US to provide visa-free travel for their citizens, despite protests from Brussels.

Estonia signed a bilateral visa-waiver deal with the US on Wednesday morning, with Latvia due to follow suit later on Wednesday.

Most of the EU's 27 members have visa-waiver deals with the US, allowing their citizens to enter the country for short visits without visas. However all but one of the 12 states that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, most of which are in Eastern Europe, have no such deals. Neither does Greece, which has been an EU member since 1981.

Some of the new EU states, impatient at the slow pace of EU-US negotiations on the issue, have pressed on with their own bilateral deals. The Czech Republic already reached its own visa-waiver agreement with the US in February in return for increased cooperation on air security and Hungary is expected to reach a similar agreement later in March.

The move by the Eastern European states is creating tension with the European Commission, which wants to be the single negotiator with the US on visa-waiver deals. The Commission, which has already tried to put pressure on the US to give citizens of all EU states visa-free travel, feels bilateral deals infringe on its authority over visa and border policy. It is also worried that such deals might allow the US to pressure individual countries to give US authorities additional data on air passengers on top of that stipulated in an existing US-EU agreement.

The Eurocrats hate it when they act like nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2008 8:42 AM
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