The European Parliament has taken the first step in potentially revoking visa-free travel of Americans to the European Union.
The parliament’s civil liberties committee voted to end Americans’ visa-free travel to European Union countries, forcing the European Commission to reintroduce visa requirements on in-coming American travellers.
The vote gives the Commission two months to adopt the needed legal measures revoking a reciprocity agreement the European Union had with the United States on travel.
As long as neither the EU Parliament nor the Council of the European Union object, American travellers will be forced to apply for entry into the EU for a period of 12 months.
The committee’s motion was approved by a show of hands, according to the EU Parliament’s website.
“The EU Commission is legally obliged to take measures temporarily reintroducing visa requirements for US citizens, given that Washington still does not grant visa-free access to nationals of five EU countries,” the parliament said in a statement.
According to the committee, the United States refuses visa-free travel to citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania – while EU rules grant US travellers unfettered entry.
The other 23 EU countries can enter the United States under the US’ Visa Waiver Programme.
The committee’s vote is largely a tit-for-tat measure against the United States for not liberalising its visa requirements despite EU officials warning Washington it was not complying with its visa reciprocity agreement.
Nearly three years ago in April 2014, the European Commission learned five countries, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan and the United States, applied visa restrictions on EU travellers despite having previously adopted rules on visa reciprocity.
The Commission notified these five of their non-compliance that same month.
According to the visa reciprocity agreement, designed to treat equally and put an end to discrimination of incoming travellers, governments have 24 months to revise their rules once notified.
Australia, Brunei and Japan revised their visa rules and Canada said it will lift its travel restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens by December 2017.
The United States, however, failed to act.
The European Commission should have acted last year but had not taken any decision as the economic costs of imposing travel restrictions on millions of American tourists and business travellers is seen as a major disincentive.
The European Commission says it is keen to find a diplomatic solution to the row with the Trump administration, which, if worsens, could hurt Europe’s tourism sector.
An EU-US ministerial meeting to discuss and possibly resolve the visa issue has been planned on June 15.