The European Parliament voted to call on the EU’s executive branch to force Americans to apply for visas in order to visit Europe.
European lawmakers set a May deadline, so that this would affect American summer vacations — they want to be punitive — but that’s highly unlikely to happen, in fact there’s a diplomatic meeting scheduled with the US on June 15 and there will be resistance to taking action prior to that meeting.
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This is the continuation of a long-running diplomatic dispute between Europe and the US over the US Visa Waiver Program.
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 European move towards requiring visas for US citizens is on its surface about reciprocity. Indeed, the European Union has pushed for similar treatment from other countries as well, though things haven’t been pushed this far.
The US doesn’t offer its visa waiver program to citizens of all European Union nations therefore the EU doesn’t want to offer it to the US.
That’s not really what this vote is about though, and the way we know that is by asking why now? and what’s different?
What’s different now is President Donald Trump and the administration’s moves on immigration, making it harder for some people to come to the U.S. and creating more hoops to jump through.
What’s going to happen? In a rational world you assume each nation does what’s in its own self-interest. Or at least individual politicians do what’s in their electoral self-interest. Erecting barriers to tourism isn’t what European economies need, so you’d expect they wouldn’t choose to create them.
At the same time, ‘reciprocity’ is the stick the EU has, it’s how they can express solidarity with voters who find the US increasingly objectionable. And it’s possible to see this escalating on both sides for spite — the EU makes a threat, the US administration retaliates. That wouldn’t end well for people on either side of the Pond, but it signals strength as well.
The EU’s threats to require visas for US citizens isn’t a ‘thing’ yet, but it has the potential to become one. We’ll have to see if Trump’s new immigration order, and follow-on policies, moderate enough to give European Union officials a face-saving path to back down.
If not, here’s what would happen: such a requirement might apply to Schengen countries, but some like Norway are not a part of the EU. US citizens would have to apply to the European country that’s their “primary destination” and the visa would be issued for two years for both business and tourism in any Schengen country. You won’t be allowed to stay more than 90 days total during any rolling 180 day period.
File this under ‘good to know’ but ‘not something to worry about — yet’.