Official says EU might force visa waiver issue

If the United States fails to show progress in relaxing visa requirements for residents of Latvia and nine other European Union members, the European Commission might take measures to force the issue, Deutsche Welle reports, citing an unnamed EU official.

“The official, speaking ahead of the EU-U.S. summit in Vienna on Wednesday, said the commission could insist that American diplomats and military personnel be obliged to have visas to travel in the EU, or demand economic and trade sanctions,” the German broadcaster reported June 22.

Another alternative, which might be hard to sell to EU members, would be to require visas for all U.S. citizens traveling to member states.

Latvia has been trying for several years to convince U.S. officials to waive visa requirements. Latvian citizens wanting to travel to the United States must apply for a visa and pay a LVL 57 fee. However, U.S. citizens may enter Latvia without a visa.

An amendment to the U.S. Senate’s version of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (S. 2611), passed May 25, offered visa waivers for European Union countries that provide at least a battalion’s worth of military support to Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. The amendment described a battalion as 300 to 1,000 troops, effectively shutting out Latvia.

However, the immigration reform bill is stalled in the House of Representative and appears unlikely to be finalized this year, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is expected in July to release a report about progress on the visa waiver issue, Deutsche Welle said.

Besides Latvia, other EU members that don’t have visa-free travel agreements with the United States are Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

4 thoughts on “Official says EU might force visa waiver issue

  1. do not relax visa rules, especially for latvians, those people will stay in the united states illegaly thus contributing to illegal mexican population, i for making even tougher for latvians to get here, so what we can enter latvia without visa, nobody wants to go to latvia

  2. Not all people like to work their lives away as we do here in the States. It would be nice for friends and family who are not wealthy or married to be able to come here on a vacation and enjoy our country. Many people have come here and gone back. They are smart.

  3. Sveiki! Latvija definitely, if not the other nine EU nations, should enjoy visa free travel to USA. What more can you ask of any nation than to lay the lives of their citizens on the line for NATO or Coalition Troop participation in Iraq? A brief comment on Johndunn’s posting : It is his loss and the gain of thousands of tourists who come and enjoy the beauty as well as hospitality of Latvija to return again and again.

  4. Apparently a larger than acceptable percentage of visitors overstay their visa date.
    They are the ones that sabotage any hope of a visa waiver to the United States any time soon.

    Its up to Latvians themselves to change their ways
    and prove to the US that they are law abiding visitors.

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