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Europe

US warns five EU countries of fading visa-waiver hopes

The US has said it is unlikely that visa-free travel will be extended to five EU states waiting for approval. The EU has asked Washington to deal with Brussels over the matter instead of with the individual countries.

A queue at JFK Airport in the United States

Most EU citizens have visa-free access to the US

EU citizens from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Romania must apply for a visa in order to travel to the United States, whereas all other EU citizens are entitled to visa-free travel for up to 90 days.

Furthermore, Brussels has complained over what it sees as a US refusal to deal with Brussels over the matter. The US has addressed the issue bilaterally with the five EU states rather than treating the EU as a unified bloc.

"After the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force, it makes even more sense to talk about questions like visa waiver requirements to the European Union itself, not to the different independent member countries," said Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament and chairman of the EU's parliamentary delegation for US relations.

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told EU lawmakers in Brussels on Friday that “it is very difficult right now to predict which, if any, of those countries will be meeting (US) statutory requirements in the near future."

"Each of the remaining countries is in a somewhat different situation, but the issue is whether the criteria … are being satisfied," she said.

Citizens of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden were among the first to enjoy visa-free travel after the system started in 1986.

The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia were last year added to the list.

dfm/dpa/AFP

Editor: Kyle James

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