European lawmakers threaten visa rules for Americans
By BRIAN MURPHY | The Washington Post | Published: March 4, 2017
The European Parliament has drawn a tough line with Washington in a dispute over visa-free travel, demanding that the United States extend the privileged status to all 28 European Union nations or risk having it pulled for Americans visiting Europe.
The vote Thursday by EU lawmakers - calling to end the visa waiver for Americans - was seen as mostly an attention-grabbing stunt ahead of a June 15 meeting between European and American envoys.
But it also runs up against tighter border-control policies by the Trump administration and could leave Europe in a political bind if Washington refuses to bend.
Passport holders from all but five EU nations can travel to the United States without seeking an advance visa. The entire European Union gives the same welcome mat to Americans.
The European Parliament, however, insists that the United States should give the visa-free allowance to the five left out: Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.
The European Parliament does not have the authority to change visa policies on its own. Also, imposing visas for American travelers would likely touch off huge economic disruptions and could force a retaliatory move by the United States.
But the vote suggests growing frustration with Washington in a running spat that began in 2014.
What remains unclear is whether the Trump administration would be in the mood to open its European visa policies. Officials have already urged greater border checks and seek to reimpose a court-blocked travel ban that originally covered seven Muslim-majority nations.
One sticking point in the past has been U.S. concern about potentially lax passport-issuing rules in some of the five EU countries outside the visa-free list.