Bush confident of visa-free travel deal with Czech Republic
( dpa )- US President George W Bush expressed confidence Wednesday that a deal can be finalized to make it easier for Czechs to travel to the United States.
"We still have more work to do, but I'm confident we can get it done," Bush said during a meeting with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.
US and Czech officials signed a document Tuesday outlining a deal that could allow Czech citizens to come to the United States without getting a visa as soon as September.
US rules that require Czech and citizens from other former communist countries to get a visa before travelling to the United States have been a source of frustration in otherwise good relations.
"I didn't like the idea that we treated our friends in the Czech Republic differently than other friends in Europe," Bush said of the visa waiver programme that allows citizens from 27 countries - mostly Western European - to travel visa-free to the United States.
Under the memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday, the Czech Republic will be required to submit additional physical and personal data about travellers to the United States. The two sides emphasized that details of the arrangement still must be worked out.
Congress last year enacted a law designed to make it easier for Eastern Europeans to travel to the United States under pressure from countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Baltic states. As members of NATO, they felt their citizens should be allowed to come to the United States without a visa.
"The negotiations have been really tough and the result achieved is a true breakthrough moment," Topolanek said through a translator.
Any deal, however, could face the scrutiny of the European Union, which has already complained about the bilateral agreement that could complicate EU negotations with the United States over the sharing of personal data on trans-Atlantic flights.