US will continue one-on-one visa deals with EU countries
( dpa ) - The United States will continue to negotiate one-on-one deals with Eastern European countries despite objections from the European Union, the US State Department said Wednesday.
Washington has signed documents with the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia that would eventually allow their citizens to travel to the United States without obtaining visas.
The European Union has strongly opposed the move, favouring a deal with the United States that would allow all EU countries to join the visa-waiver programme. Brussels has criticized the EU states who have completed separate deals with the United States.
"We have arrangements that we are working out with individual member states, and I would expect that that is going to continue absent some sort of agreement within the EU to the contrary," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"If the EU has some dispute internal to the EU, then the EU needs to work that out," he said.
There are more than two dozen countries - mostly Western European - in the US visa-waiver programme. Eastern European countries, especially NATO allies, have been annoyed about not being included and the issue regularly arises during visits to the White House.
The countries argue they should be permitted to deal directly with Washington because the European Union has been to slow to address the issue.