CHARLOTTE, NC, August 7, 2017 – Relatively recent reports out of Brussels said the European Union (EU) was in the process of pressuring the United States to add more countries to the list of nations whose citizens can travel here without obtaining a visa.
The threat being that if Washington did not comply then Americans might soon be forced to apply for visas to travel to Europe.
Anyone who has ever ventured into another country where a visa is required readily understands the hassle involved in the application process which is not only time consuming but also expensive.
Citizens of at least five EU members require U.S. visas including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.
For the time being, at least, cooler heads have prevailed and Americans wishing to travel to Europe can take a huge sigh of relief with regard to the Visa Waiver Program.
Much of the dispute centered around the recent influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East following multiple terrorist attacks on the European Continent in the past few years.
Such a move would have likely reduced tourism to Europe by Americans who would rather go somewhere else than deal with the hassle of the visa application process.
For the moment, Americans and Canadians can, for the most part, travel to the Continent for business or pleasure without obtaining the added documents. Canada has also been embroiled in the mix to a slightly lesser degree since it only requires Bulgarians and Romanians to obtain a visa.
Presently there are 28 member states of the European Union.
Negotiations intensified in complexity with recent terror attacks in Europe which have been conducted and/or coordinated by Europeans who either traveled to Syria or became “radicalized” at home. Therefore, requiring visas to travel to the U.S. and Canada for certain countries became one deterrent in the effort to keep the homeland safe and secure.
Further complicating negotiations were several countries that received visa exempt status when they joined the EU in 2004: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Hungary.
Visa-free privileges to those five 2004 members added to the frustration of the five nations now seeking similar status for themselves, especially because Poland and Cyprus also joined the EU in 2004 and have been denied the visa waiver. Thus cries of discrimination have been heard loudly from across the Atlantic.
In the case of Poland, Americans have been allowed to travel there without a visa for many years. The Poles simply want reciprocity.
According to U.S. officials whenever the necessary steps are taken to confirm the applications of the five member nations seeking visa-free status, it will be granted. What those specifications are, at least to the general public, remains cloudy.
Many of the “sticking points” have already been sorted out with Canada, with attention now turning to the U.S.
Diplomats have high hopes the same tangible results will follow in future dialogues with the United States. For the moment, the commissions working on reciprocity on both sides have until December to come up with a workable solution.
The story has been overshadowed by seemingly more important developments in other global negotiations. For the time being, the sea is calm, but should something alter progress between now and December, it could set off a tsunami for American travelers planning trips to Europe in 2018.
Chances are it is much ado about nothing, but travelers would be well advised to stay alert to the possibility of applying for a European visa in the future, at least until a final decision is reached.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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