Alexa

EU's newest members demand to join visa-free travel area in 2007

EU's newest members demand to join visa-free travel area in 2007

The European Union's newest members demanded Thursday to be allowed to join the bloc's borderless travel system by late next year, saying they would have the required security procedures in place by that time.
The new members also demanded that the 25-nation bloc get tough with the United States over its refusal to grant visa-free travel to nationals from Greece, Cyprus, Malta and seven eastern European nations that joined the bloc in 2004.
The European Commission recommended Wednesday that the EU impose visa requirements on U.S. diplomats because Washington has failed to waive visas for all 25 EU nations.
Germany, however, is hesitant to back the sanction, fearing it could lead to a deterioration of relations with Washington amid sensitive anti-terror negotiations on sharing trans-Atlantic passenger data.
On the EU's borderless travel zone, Poland's Interior Minister Ludwik Dorn urged a quick solution to a simmering dispute between the 15 older EU members and the 10 nations that joined two years ago.
New members have argued that the older members have intentionally delayed their entry into what is known as the Schengen travel zone because they do not trust the new members' border and customs checks are up to EU standards.
EU officials have said new members could face an additional delay of joining until at least mid-2008.
Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said more time was needed to prepare a new final date by which the 10 new members can join, suggesting that EU ministers delay their decision until December.
"It is extremely difficult for us to accept a solution where a date would be postponed," Dorn told EU ministers. "For citizens, what counts is that internal borders are no more because this is a signal that the EU works."
Lithuania's Interior Minister Raimondas Sukys also backed calls by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia that the EU stick to a 2007 date, and insisted the issue be resolved at an EU leaders' summit in two weeks.
"When is the final date for opening the borders? It should be announced," he said.
Most new members claimed they would be able to pass EU security standards by October 2007.
However, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble insisted the new members meet the stringent border security requirements before being allowed to join.
"New member states must fulfill the conditions _ otherwise Europe will not get more but less security," he said. A meeting of the EU ministers last month was told technical problems in setting up a new computer database to handle the enlarged travel system caused delays and would not be ready by 2007, when the 10 new members were expected to join.
The EU ministers were considering using the current Schengen computer system to allow the new members to join next year while speeding up efforts to set up a new computer system to handle visas with added security measures such as computer chips.
EU ministers also are to discuss the U.S. visa waiver system.
Inclusion in the visa waiver program is a delicate issue for many former communist countries that have become EU members and close allies of Washington.
EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff saying the EU believed it was "no longer understandable and acceptable" that the U.S. refuses to lift the visa requirements.
EU officials have long insisted visa waiver deals must be fully reciprocal.
U.S. officials claim Greece and nine of the 10 new EU members still fail to meet all the U.S. criteria necessary for joining the program.
In all, 27 countries are in the program, which allows their citizens to visit the United States for three months without a visa. The only new EU member state to enjoy the visa-waiver scheme is Slovenia. New member states, notably Poland and Hungary, have pushed Frattini to take retaliatory action.
Several EU nations, including Greece and Slovakia, already have visa restrictions in place for U.S. diplomats.


Updated : 2021-04-18 02:53 GMT+08:00