European Parliament votes to suspend visa-free travel for Americans

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MAMOSA Report — The European Parliament voted on Friday to end visa-free travel for Americans within the EU, The Independent reported.

The passing of the non-binding resolution comes after the US failed to agree visa-free travel for citizens of five EU countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania – as part of a reciprocity agreement. US citizens can normally travel to all countries in the bloc without a visa.

The vote urges the revocation of the scheme within two months, meaning Americans will have to apply for extra documents for 12 months after the European Commission implements a “delegated act” to bring the change into effect.

According to Reuters, the European Parliament on Thursday called on the EU executive to force Americans to apply for visas before visiting Europe this summer, stepping up pressure to resolve a long-running transatlantic dispute on the issue.

The European Commission stressed it was pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the row, leaving it unlikely that it would act on the vote by lawmakers setting a May deadline to impose visas – a move that could hurt Europe’s tourism sector (1.1 billion in 2014) and projected to grow to almost 1.35 billion by 2020 and 1.8 billion by 2030 (see graph below).

Washington refuses to grant visa-free access to people from four east European states and Cyprus, while those from the other 23 member states can enter using the U.S. visa waiver program. EU rules call for equal treatment for all Union citizens.

The economic cost of imposing visa restrictions on the millions of American tourists and business travelers who visit Europe each year is said to be a major disincentive.

Most EU countries are part of the Schengen zone that allows people to travel freely inside Europe without passport checks.

The Parliament, by a show of hands, urged the Commission to adopt restrictive measures against U.S. citizens “within two months”. Lawmakers have little immediate power to ensure that the executive complies with such demands.

Canada also imposes visa requirements on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, but it has announced that they will be lifted in December.

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