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EU Court Rejects Parliament's Action for Visa Reciprocity with the US

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has dismissed a case brought by the European Parliament against the EU Commission regarding the imposition of visas on United States citizens as a reciprocity measure. The case arose after the Commission refused to require visas for US citizens in October 2020.

EU Court Rejects Parliament's Action for Visa Reciprocity with the US

In its recent judgment, the CJEU settled the dispute by ruling that the European Union is not obligated to impose visas on a third country whose citizens can enter the Schengen Area without a visa, even if that country imposes visa requirements on nationals of one or more EU member states.

According to the judgment, while, in principle, only third countries that grant visa exemptions to all EU member states' nationals are eligible for such exemptions for their own citizens, the Commission has discretion to determine whether suspending this exemption is warranted.

The judgment states, "It is therefore not automatically required to suspend the exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of the third country concerned. The Court thus dismisses an action for failure to act brought by the European Parliament against the Commission."

The issue initially arose when the EU Parliament raised concerns about the US requiring nationals of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania to obtain visas for tourism and business purposes, rather than granting full visa-free entry to all EU citizens.

After reviewing the Visa Code, the Parliament concluded that the Commission was obligated to temporarily suspend visa-free entry for US citizens as a reciprocity measure. However, the Commission rejected this request, deeming it inappropriate and potentially detrimental to political and economic relations.

In response, the Parliament brought the matter before the CJEU. The court has now affirmed the Commission's right to refuse the request, stating that it had exercised its discretion correctly and in line with the necessary criteria.

"The Commission therefore did not exceed its discretion in taking the view that it was not required to suspend the exemption of United States nationals from the visa requirement, with the result that it cannot be accused of having failed to act," the CJEU ruling states.

Currently, citizens of the United States and approximately 60 other countries can enter the EU and Schengen Area countries without a visa. However, by mid-2024, US citizens will need to obtain a document called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) for travel to Europe.

Most EU citizens already apply for a similar travel authorization known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) when traveling to the United States, except for nationals of Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania, who still require a US B1/B2 visa. Croatia, however, became part of the US Visa Waiver Program in December 2021, allowing its citizens to enter the US with only an ESTA.


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