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03 March, 2017

EU wants US citizens to obtain visas to enter Schengen area

European lawmakers have called for retaliatory visa restrictions for Americans visiting the European Union after the United States banned visa-free travel for five of the EU member states.

"Citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania still cannot enter US territory without a visa while US citizens can travel to all EU countries visa-free," a parliament statement said on Thursday.

The lawmakers at the European Parliament have given directions to the bloc's executive arm, the European Commission, to temporarily revoke the visa waiver system for US nationals for 12 months, the statement added.

The European Commission is "legally obliged to take measures temporarily reintroducing visa requirements for US citizens," the European Parliament said.

The waiver is to be enforced within two months and after the revocation is enforced, any move to reintroduce the permit for visa-free entrance to the EU for US citizens would have to be approved by member states, a process which could take years.

The statement said the Canadian government had also imposed visa restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens but they are about to be lifted in December following negotiations between the two sides.

A spokeswoman for EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos acknowledged the waiver, saying the official had taken measures to obtain full visa reciprocity during a recent visit to Washington.

"Our approach of continued engagement and patient diplomatic contacts brought tangible results with Canada," the spokeswoman said, adding, "Our assessment of the situation with the US has not changed and we will continue our discussions."

The spat comes at a time when US President Donald Trump has imposed an immigrant ban on seven mainly Muslim countries which was later overturned by a court.

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