Members of the European Parliament have called on the European Commission to take measures to ensure that citizens from four member states no longer face “discrimination” when visiting the United States.
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 situation of what is called “non-reciprocity” affecting Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania was formally raised as long ago as 2014. At the time, Poland was also affected but since last year Polish citizens can travel to the US visa-free.
The Commission is now being asked to guarantee “full visa reciprocity” between the EU and US for nationals from all 27 member states, including people from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania.
The executive is being asked to present a legal act suspending the visa waiver for US nationals for 12 months. Parliament defends the “tit-for-tat” retaliatory action against America, saying this is the only way to guarantee free travel rights for all EU citizens. Failure to act, it says, “risks weakening the EU’s credibility as guardian of the treaties.”
Spanish Socialist MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said, “The discrimination that Bulgarians, Croatians, Cypriots and Romanians experience when traveling 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 the MEP who is chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur on the visa dossier.
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The EU does not single out any US citizens by denying visa rights so the same must apply to all EU citizens, said MEPs in the resolution.
Aguilar added, “We cannot tolerate a situation where a third country treats a small number of Member States unfairly. We are calling on the Commission, as the Guardian of the Treaties, to follow its legal obligation and put into motion the suspension of visa reciprocity with the United States. This is not just a question abiding by EU law, but a question of standing by our principles of solidarity in Europe and making it clear that there are no second class citizens in the EU.”
He said the resolution “sends the message that it does not matter where in the EU you live, discrimination against any EU citizen is not acceptable.”
A spokesman for the S&D group said it wants to make sure the Commission takes the necessary action to ensure visa reciprocity with the United States is “fully respected and free travel rights apply to all EU citizens equally.”
“The European Commission’s inaction on visa reciprocity is totally inadmissible,” said Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs.