January 14, 2006

EU bemoans US slowness over visa waivers

VIENNA (Reuters) - The European Union urged Washington on
Saturday to speed up efforts to extend its visa waiver scheme
to new EU members.

A report by the executive Commission cited the United
States, Canada and Australia as having made no real progress in
signing reciprocal accords with the predominantly ex-communist
states under which countries waive the need for visas.

"Member states don't want at all to open a dispute with the
United States, Canada and Australia and nor do we (the European
Commission)," Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini
told reporters at a meeting of EU justice ministers.

Frattini acknowledged there were legitimate security
concerns for countries looking to extend visa waiver schemes.

However, the Commission said in a statement it wanted to
see progress by the time it published a second report in July
and noted it had the power in theory to recommend sanctions.

The U.S. waiver scheme does not cover Greece or all of the
EU's 10 new member states except Slovenia. The United States
does not require visas from citizens of other EU states if they
have machine-readable passports.

Washington has recognized the need to resolve an issue that
could turn into an irritant for EU-U.S. ties. But for the time
being there appears little will in Europe to raise the