March 19, 2008
The U.S. has upset the EU with granting visa free travel to Czech citizens on a bilateral basis, which was followed by similar agreements wit Hungary, Estonia and Latvia. Similar agreements are expected with other Central European countries.
The new, former Communist EU member states are usually have a better relationship with the U.S. than their Western-European counterparts. It has been a long time frustration for the Central European people that they cannot freely travel to the United States. All over the region people were really grateful for the U.S. for freeing them from the Soviet-imposed planned economy and dictatorship. These countries have joined NATO enthusiastically and went through a painful economic and social transition to get entry into the EU. Most Central European countries have a large emigrant population in the US and the difficulties of obtaining a US visa sometimes make family visit impossible. Image: Diego)
Since the entry of these countries the EU tried to persuade the U.S. to treat EU citizens on an equal footing. Had the U.S. granted visa free travel on a multilateral basis it would have strengthened the political unity of the EU which can achieve its goals on the global agenda. European analysts claim that this is exactly what the U.S. foreign policy wanted to avoid. After the Czech citizens were granted this privilege all Central European countries have left the EU block talks and to negotiate bilateral agreements with America.
I think this is a very short-sighted policy on both sides. The U.S. may achieve more from individual and weaker partners, and may be happy with a divided EU that is very critical of the current American government. However, on the long term the U.S. has only one stable political ally and it has former alliance with the European NATO members. A stronger EU would be more effective ally of the US. On the other hand I think the negotiating parties on the EU side did not realize the importance of the visa agreement for these countries (all older member states except for Greece enjoy this privilege) and did not push very hard for a US-EU agreement.
Originally posted here.Author : Dániel Antal