US visa waiver program should be open to all EU citizens

Sanwar Ali comment:

The US visa waiver visit program for B2 visitors for pleasure and B1 visitors for business makes it much easier to visit the US for up to 90 days.  If you are a national of a Country that can come under this program you do not have to apply at the US Embassy and attend an interview.  You can make an application online under the visa waiver program for a relatively modest fee of $14.  Citizens of certain EU Countries that do not come under the scheme probably feel left out.  The good news is that it seems that more EU Countries will be able to join the visa waiver list soon.

Another issue that may be of concern is that more people are being refused entry to the US under the visa waiver program.  Customs and Border Protection officers, especially under the Trump regime, can refuse entry to those they think may not be genuine visitors.

In a report presented to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) during a ministerial meeting in Brussels, Davor Božinović, Croatia’s Interior Minister, said that the European Union unanimously agrees that the US visa waiver program should be open to all EU citizens.

Božinović argues that all EU member states should be treated equally in respect of the US visa waiver program. Currently, US citizens enjoy visa free travel to all EU countries. However, citizens of some EU member states are excluded from the US visa waiver program, including Bulgarians, Croatians, Cypriots and Romanians.

The report was presented by Božinović at a joint EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting, which takes place twice a year. The meetings focus on transatlantic communication and common security threats.

Following the meeting, Božinović spoke to the press, saying: “It was evident at our last meeting in Washington, and during the committee’s most recent debate, that the EU is unanimous with regard to US visa free travel for citizens of all EU member states.”

Croatia’s treatment of migrants criticised

However, Božinović’s comments on US visa free travel for all EU citizens prompted the press to question Croatia’s Interior Minister about the treatment of migrants by Croatian police, following criticism from some members of the European Parliament about the conduct of law enforcement officers in the Balkan nation.

In reply, Božinović said: “Our position is clear. We will not allow illegal entry into Croatian territory and that has nothing to do with the right to international protection. We are open when it comes to anyone who is in need.”

“However, Europe and the world have to find a response to the question of how to treat migrants who are seeking a better life and refugees,” Božinović added.

According to Božinović, there are a growing number of people claiming the right to seek asylum to enter the EU to live, work and build a better life. However, Božinović said: “I can understand that when it comes to individuals, however, the state has to protect its interests, which includes protecting the national border.”

Access to US visa waiver program edging close for some EU member states

Cypriot officials claim that a visa free entry deal for its citizens with the US is edging closer following a meeting in Nicosia between Cyprus Foreign Minister, Nicos Christodoulides, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris and Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides with Assistant US Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Carl Risch.

Meanwhile, Božinović said Croatia is nearing meeting US laws allowing Croatian citizens visa free travel to the US.

During a visit to Washington in December 2019, Božinović said that Croatia had reduced its number of declined US visa applications from 5.9 percent to 4.02 percent. Under US law, a country’s percentage of declined US visa requests must not exceed 3 percent if it wants to be considered for the US visa waiver program.

Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, retains hope that Bulgarian citizens will be eligible for visa free travel to the US, midway through 2021.

Commenting on Romania’s pursuit for access to the US visa waiver program, Ambassador to Romania, James Rosapepe said: “We just have to keep working on it.”

As of November 11 2019, Poland became the first country in five years to be accepted into the US visa waiver program after decades of waiting.

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