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EC calls for visa-free travel to Canada for all EU states

Canada must move to lift visa requirements on new European Union member states or face possible retaliatory steps, the European Commission is expected to warn Tuesday.

In a report to be presented to EU interior ministers, the EU executive was expected to call on Canada to allow at least one more EU country to enjoy visa-free travel by the end of the year and show tangible progress in abolishing the visa regime for the others in the first half of next year, the Canadian Press said. The report, seen by The Associated Press, would say “appropriate steps could be considered” if Canada would change the regime for the eight new EU members that still need visas to travel to Canada.

It did not specify what steps the EU or its individual member states could take. The eight countries named in the report are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Diplomats said the report would add political pressure on Canada but was unlikely to lead to visa requirements for Canadian citizens. “Realistically, what measures can we take? We won’t be able to agree on a visa regime for Canadians or any other measure. That would be counter productive,” a diplomat from a new member state said, as quoted by the Canadian Press.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not yet been made public. Canada has given Cyprus, Malta, Estonia and Slovenia the same visa-free treatment that western Europeans enjoy, but requires visas for visitors from the other eight new EU countries. The Commission report does not envisage any steps against the United States over its visa waiver program.

A new US bill would expand it to more European countries, but not as many as the EU would like. The current US program would allow citizens from most western European countries and some other parts of the world to enter the country without visas, but excluded many of the newer EU member states, Canadian Press said. The report acknowledged the United States has taken steps to allow more countries to enjoy visa free access. (sofiaecho)