Because the United States did not agree to allow visa-free admission to its territory by citizens of five EU nations: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania, the European Parliament voted to end visa-free travel for Americans. Normally, American citizens can travel in all of the countries of the EU bloc without a visa under a waiver program. The vote on Friday calls for revoking the current scheme within two months, which will mean that American citizens will have to apply for visas to enter the EU for 12 months after the European Commission implements a “delegated act” to bring the change into effect.
 
In 2013, the European Commission determined that the United States had not met its obligations under a reciprocity agreement. However, the EU had not yet taken any legal action. In a vote by the civil liberties committee and approved by a full session of the EU parliament, the European Commission now has two months to act before Members of the European Parliament can consider action in the European Court of Justice.
 
Australia, Brunei, Canada, and Japan have so far failed in their respective obligations. However, four of them are soon to lift any visa restrictions on travel for citizens of the European Union.  and Canada were also failing in their obligations, but all four have lifted, or are soon to lift, any visa restrictions on travel for EU citizens.
 
The European Commission is compelled to suspend the visa waiver for Americans, but the European Parliament or the Council of the European Union may object to the “delegated act” it uses to do so.
 
In December, MEPs pressed for the move in order to “encourage” Washington to play its part, according to a statement by the parliament. Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned of “consequences”, including potential “retaliation” and a drop in the number of travelers from the US. That could mean substantial losses for Europe’s tourism industry.
 
This week, the European Council said it would soon allow citizens of the Republic of Georgia to stay in any EU member country for up to 90 days in any period of 180 days without the need for a visa. 
 
In January, there were reports that EU may adopt an American-style electronic travel permit scheme, which could mean a new hurdle for British travelers to brink following the national referendum in the UK to break from the EU. In the British parliament, Immigration minister Robert Goodwill spoke of possibly introducing a version of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) used in the US. As it stands now, foreign travellers must pay a fee of $14 to complete the ESTA automated online system that determines their eligibility to travel to the US. Goodwill said, 
“British people are now used to the US ESTA scheme and, therefore, we view with interest how the European scheme might develop and what similarities, and differences, there may be to the US scheme.”  Goodwill said, “This type of scheme is generally there to help enhance security. To get to know as much as possible about the people who are intending to travel.
 
“It isn’t just flights, it could be people using ferries, or other border crossings into the European Union.”


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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